Information and Disinformation – the State of the Online Public Sphere

Feat. Christian Stöcker of HAW Hamburg | 18 June 2024

The media transformation has long been complete. This has created a complicated situation when it comes to news: The internet has become a marketplace of attention and, in principle, anyone can disseminate “content” via social media, websites or chat channels. Sources of news and information about public life are therefore no longer limited to newspaper offices and broadcasting organisations that do legitimate journalistic work – on the contrary, such established media are increasingly driven out by alternative providers. Some of these are more or less openly pursuing economic or political interests that are incompatible with adherence to journalistic standards, and some within the multitude of voices on the internet are deliberately spreading false or misleading reports. Such disinformation is a problem for democratic discourse, leads to uncertainty and polarisation and has direct effects in reality that are sometimes difficult or even impossible to capture. Such impacts are intended by the institutions that spread disinformation and are already widely visible; they are amplified by automated processes, algorithms and generative AI. How can we as a society respond to this development, and what role do journalists and media professionals have in this?

Christian Stöcker is a journalist, author and Professor of Digital Communication at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW Hamburg), where he heads the MA programme in Digital Communication. He was previously responsible for the “Netzwelt” section at SPIEGEL ONLINE. In this episode of Digitalgespräch, the expert on digital media and their social impact explains the transformation of the media landscape that we have undergone in recent decades, provides insights into the functioning and background of key online platforms and highlights links with current political and social developments. He describes the impact that the presence of disinformation has on the profession of journalism and how young media professionals are being prepared for it. Together with hosts Marlene Görger and Petra Gehring, Stöcker discusses the scenario that awaits us if disinformation strategies continue to be successful, what measures could be taken against them – and rules everyone who wants to preserve the possibilities of democratic discourse and contain the damage should submit to.

Episode 53 of Digitalgespräch, feat. Christian Stöcker of HAW Hamburg, 18 June 2024
Further informationen:

Link to the study by Soroush Vosoughi et. al (2016) on the spread of disinformation in online media mentioned in this interview:
Link to the “Klickwinkel” initiative mentioned in this interview:
Link to the “Use the News” initiative mentioned in this interview:

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The podcast is in German. At the moment there is no English version or transcript available.