Leveraging Data to Resist Disinformation

In order to increase resilience to disinformation in already fragile environments, government and media actors must understand the information ecosystem and the determinants that influence target-audience perceptions and behaviors. This is the aim of Sayara’s innovative mixed-method research programs, whose near real-time data informs effective programming and measures its impact, tracking what works and what doesn’t.

Sayara’s research has shed light on the damaging effects of disinformation in Afghanistan and Eastern European countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Moldova), two different regions that present similar results. 

Afghanistan faces a deliberate circulation of disinformation campaigns, with dissemination methods that include informal channels such as influential voices and message multipliers as well as poor media practices. A key finding from the research determined that traditional communication channels remain highly influential in the Afghan context, suggesting that technology plays a considerably minor role in the dissemination of propaganda and disinformation. This shows how disinformation has the ability to permeate even the most inaccessible populations.

For this study, Sayara used a multiphasic, mixed-method that combined traditional online and offline research tools with AI-driven innovative technologies. Our research team monitored the media environment using artificial intelligence learning algorithms, ethnographic observations, and target audience analysis (such as a randomized sample survey and in-depth interviews).

Eastern Europe similarly faces issues of dissemination of disinformation and foreign hostile narratives. A multi-pronged program was used to better understand foreign disinformation methods across the media landscape, in addition to the consumption and public attitudes patterns towards such narratives.

The research methodology in this context included comprehensive Target Audience Analysis (TAA); focus group discussions; key informant interviews; online and offline surveys; and longitudinal panels. Sayara produced an interactive online Media Environment Monitoring (MEM) portal used to identify, monitor, and analyze disinformation attacks and narratives in order to provide weekly and ad-hoc reporting of dissemination.

By identifying vulnerable audience segments, effective communication channels to reach them, and pathways to increase social cohesion, Sayara’s research provides our partners with actionable evidence to better respond to disinformation.