Interview: A New Online Tool Against Conspiracy Stories

The plot checker can be found at https://verschwoerungchecker.org/.

The tool is a joint initiative of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation and Web Agency Berlin ACB, implemented in the debunk project and funded by Demokratie leben and Saxony Worldwide.

The Amadeo Antonio Foundation exposes project is primarily about fighting anti-Semitism and conspiracy ideologies. The team is mostly on the road in Saxony and works with them Pupils, adolescents and young people engaged in schools and workshops, but also with teachers, social workers and local networks that promote democracy.

Beltower Talk to a project consultant Exposing Multi-Rinke-Decker about the new plot checker, whether you can really use it to check each plot story and what The basic prescription’ for conspiracy ideologies.

Belltower.News: How did you come up with the idea to develop a plot checker?

Malte Reinke-Dieker: As a fake project, we do political education with a focus on Saxony, but also nationally. At the beginning of the pandemic, we faced a major challenge of digitally implementing events, workshops, seminars and more training courses and making them as engaging as possible. At the same time, we noticed that, with the exception of pure fact-checking sites, there was previously no fun navigation of content. So our thinking was that he needed a fun, low-threshold, engaging tool.

Can you really check every plot story with the tool?

The checker is designed to check any plot novel Also because we’ve come across so many different conspiracy stories in our work and also during the pandemic, some of them are totally absurd and easy to see, but some of them seem very real.

That’s why we developed the tool as publicly as possible and it doesn’t work through individual or concrete stories at all. As a result, the conspiracy checker can be used eternally and applies not only to the epidemic, but also, for example, to conspiracy stories about the aggressive war against Ukraine, the climate crisis or energy prices. You should be able to check every story, including whether it’s a real plot. Because of course there.

At the same time, it is very important for us to stress that the plot-checker provides preliminary guidance, but more research is needed to get a 100% clear answer. In the end, we recommend getting more information. We have one for that link collection They are created, for example, for the brochures of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation or also for advice centers.

After answering a few multiple-choice questions, the tool provides an assessment of the likelihood that the story is nonsense. Can you briefly describe how the conspiracy checker came to an end?

Realizing the plot checker was definitely a lot of work, but it’s also very exciting. We developed the questions first, always with the ulterior motive that the auditor should convey the content in a low-key manner. That’s why users can read every question about why we asked it in the first place.

Then we developed the answers. There is a rating matrix behind the answers, which means we evaluated the answer options differently. In the background, all the answers are added together and then the result is presented at the end.

However, it’s part of the auditor’s intent that it’s not just about the pure result, but you also get content on the way there. This should enable users to better categorize conspiracy stories in the future Even if they don’t have a validator on hand.

You just mentioned that the development process was very arduous. What challenges did you encounter during development?

First of all, we asked ourselves the question: Who is a conspiracy checker intended for? Of course we have our pseudo target group in mind, i.e. youth and youth, but also education workers and teachers. But that’s about it Because it is a publicly accessible page Also a wide mass of interested community.

Not only was the diversity of the target groups but also the diversity of the stories a huge challenge. There are many plot stories, and new ones are constantly being added. That’s why we’re particularly pleased that we designed the validator independently of the concrete narratives.

Because even if the plot novels change and the themes change, the same basic prescription and the same basic anti-Semitic structure remains at its core. Achieving this was our main goal.

conspiracy checker and its users You should familiarize yourself with the plot stories with the same basic recipe. Can you explain this common structure briefly?

The basic recipe for conspiracy ideology is that there are two sides. There is good and evil, on the one hand the affected and on the other the conspirators. Conspirators are usually very powerful. They are so powerful that they can direct events around the world. And part of the basic recipe is that there is always truth behind things. So: nothing is as it seems. This means: If you adhere to a conspiracy ideology, you often feel like you’re constantly lying Through the news, through the media, through the classroom.

On the other hand, there is a small, powerful and sinister group running events and ruling the world. These are all points we find in anti-Semitism. This is why we talk about structural anti-Semitism when we talk about conspiracy ideologies, which we encounter over and over again. Completely independent of the story in question.

Detailed FAQs can also be found on the ConspiracyChecker website. In it, I wrote that in some cases, conspiracy ideology could no longer be resolved simply with facts. What do you want too?

In any case, this is a question we face time and time again in our political pedagogical work. I think realizing that it is not enough to simply send articles and facts to people is an important first step.

Especially in the beginning, when a person begins to pay attention to the conspiracy thought and is at an early stage of extremes, they can still be reached with facts and articles. Later, as a person slips more and more into an ideological conspiracy worldview, it becomes more and more difficult. Or even an obstacle from a certain point.

This is because the person rejects this content, possibly withdrawing from the discussion or incorporating the article into his or her worldview. For example, if you submit articles from ARD or Tagesschau, you will be told that this is the manipulated press etc. That is why it is very difficult to deal with the facts. So it is important, especially in a one-on-one discussion, to be patient in order to build a good relationship with the person involved and be able to have a long-term dialogue.

It is not enough to burden someone who links conspiracy stories with links and facts. What can you do instead if you want to engage in a long-term dialogue?

It can be really helpful to set aside story content or plot myths and find out: Does the person have negative fears or experiences? Because conspiracy stories especially in times of crisis are very attractive and provide stability and support with simple solutions. These can be personal crises, job loss, family breakup and so on, but also social crises, such as an epidemic or inflation. That’s why it’s so hard to just get to the person with facts, because emotions play a big role here.

Instead of hitting a person with facts or articles, you should first of all ask a lot of questions, for example: Do you really think this is the case? “or What good is the person who started an alleged conspiracy? You should criticize and always say, for example: But somehow I can’t imagine it.” This is completely unrealistic”, in order to gradually and step by step cause the conspiracy ideological narratives and worldviews to collapse and destabilize. This is the long-term goal.

However, in such a conflict one should always set clear boundaries and cut off the conversation if, for example, one feels threatened by someone, feels uncomfortable, or at least if inhuman, discriminatory or hostile content is expressed anti-Semitic.

Providing assistance and support in dealing with conspiracy believers Counseling centers.

To return to the plot checker: What exactly are you hoping for from this? What role do these tools play in working against conspiracy narratives and anti-Semitism?

I think that such a tool cannot, of course, be the all-encompassing solution. But such tools are a very good complement to the existing materials, that is, teaching materials and methods of pedagogical work, especially in the digital space. In addition, it can be quite a useful tool in all possible contexts of dealing with the topic, precisely because it is accessible, attractive and playful, but at the same time it offers more information.

And because it’s an openly accessible page, there’s of course also hope that a plot-checker will offer guidance to people who’ve been told a classic story, heard it in a family conversation, or read it online and wonder: What is this actually about? Is this nonsense? Or is there something behind it?

Is it even possible to deal in a funny way with conspiracy ideologies?

This is of course a difficult question, but I think this approach can be fun. At the same time, of course, without underestimating the topic. If you accompany the whole thing, put it in context and take it as a starting point for dealing with the topic, then in our opinion, such a playful, low-threshold approach can work well.

You can try the plot checker now on https://verschwoerungchecker.org/.

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