media-trustIt’s difficult to know who to trust anymore. Whenever a report is published online by Western media about the escalating crisis in Ukraine, a chorus of angry commenters leap in to denounce it all as lies and blatant propaganda.

There is now a host of alternative information sources out there, from foreign media such as the (Russian state-owned) RT news network, to citizens uploading YouTube videos and posting blogs and Twitter messages. Many of them offer a very different perspective to those of European governments and media.

Depending on which news sources you follow, Flight MH17 was either shot down by the rebels over Ukraine, or it wasn’t shot down at all and was just a tragic accident, or it was shot down by the Ukrainian military (possibly even as part of a bungled assassination attempt on Vladimir Putin himself) or, at its most grotesque, it was all staged and the passengers aboard MH17 are not really dead.

It doesn’t help that the crash site has now been so compromised that there will, inevitably, be another chorus of voices denouncing any official report as hopelessly flawed.

Depending on which President, Prime Minister or Chancellor you listen to, Russia has either invaded Eastern Ukraine or it hasn’t. When world leaders publicly denounce one another as liars, who are citizens supposed to trust? Who should they believe?

In the case of the Russia-Ukraine conflict the issue of trust is particularly prominent because the narratives are so starkly different, but the question is also there in reporting of the Israel-Palestine conflict, or news about the fighting in Syria and Iraq, or coverage of the rioting in Ferguson, or even over the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Far from offering a wealth of information so that the “truth” can be meticulously sourced and cross-referenced, the internet has put so much information out there that it’s just not humanly possible for every citizen to sift through the spiral of claims and counter-claims on every issue.

So it comes down to trust. Which information sources do citizens trust online? Who do they trust to do the “sifting” for them and report back to them what they find?

In Europe, the revelation that Western intelligence agencies have been spying on the data of citizens online has been enormously damaging, and many citizens see this as confirmation that governments cannot be trusted. So, is there anything that governments can do to win back the trust of citizens online?

We spoke to Michael Daniel, a Special Assistant to the U.S. President and Cybersecurity Coordinator, and asked how governments can repair the trust damaged by the spying scandal:

We also put the same question to Sigrid Johannisse, Advisor to the Cabinet of Neelie Kroes, the EU Commissioner for Digital Agenda. How can governments regain citizen’s trust online?

How do YOU know who to trust when it comes to reporting current events? Should people be more sceptical about the news they read online? And how can governments repair trust after the recent NSA spying scandal? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Richard Masoner

62 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Steve Patriarca

    Fortunately we have a free press and free access to social media. It is of course for the reader or viewer to beware and measure the quality of information. We even have the adolescent propagandists of Russia Today if we feel like a session of the Absurd.

  2. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    After what they told us about Iraq, or how they treated Greece during the crisis, I am very skeptical about Western media and so I always try to see the bigger picture by taking in account the other side’s point if view!!!

  3. avatar
    Franck Legon

    no way, every country controls the opinion, example : yesterday was a strike day for the fast food employees (poors) to get better wages in the USA, land of freedom . result : 450 people arrested . not a word in our medias . nice democracy, nice freedom of the medias … we’re talked to as childrens, as if we weren’t able to hear the true motivations of governments actions and accept it, which causes a huge part of the audiences to feel they are cheated and consequently to misstrust anything they are told .

  4. avatar
    Patrice Puchaux

    I think it is good to follow several newspapers and source of informations. Personnally I foolow “Le Monde” and “The Guardian” to have informations about my country, EU and the world.

  5. avatar
    Jorge Qoqe

    In order to trust I don’t need a journalist, just a book of History. This situation in Ukraine is unfortunatly too similar than Yugoslavia 20 years ago. In that time Germany and Vatican recognise the unilateral independence of Croatia and Slovenia, so they destabilized the country. Then, popular armies supported from Serbia (in that period) fought. Now, EU destabilized Ukraine in the meeting in Vilnus 28/11/13… and Russia played their pieces…

    • avatar

      Absolutely. Money is at the bottom of all conflicts somewhere down the line.

  6. avatar
    Constantin von Ludwig

    Our media are not impartial (as there is no such thing), however we must not forget that we have the freedom of press in the EU (except Hungary), which is a very valuable good. The fact that it is perfectly normal that pro-Russian voices, like journalists of Russian state television are allowed to express their views in Western media, reveals their aim of giving balanced information.

    In Russia such a thing would be impossible, plus I have been told several times by Russians who know both sides and Europeans speaking Russian, how Russian media are not simply manipulating evidence, but simply lieing and making up stories.

  7. avatar
    Ivan Burrows

    We can’t trust it. The EU propaganda machinery is in overdrive trying to blur their involvement. If you want any info on it at all I would suggest using media outlets from none EU countries & certainly take anything from the EU, the EC & the EP with a very large pince of salt.

  8. avatar
    Aleksandros Ho Megas

    Croatian media are state propaganda service, even when they are considered private since all of em get money from the budget etc…
    Un Ukrainian crisis bias is obvious, as was with Syrian crisis, etc.
    It was really offensive when Croatia had referendum for the EU membership, where it was dictating how EU is our only way; even using terror propaganda scaring pensioners to vote “FOR” stating by the government that there will be no pensions if we vote “AGAINST” joining EU.
    We often joke that our media editors are residing on Brussels – USA Embassy relations.

  9. avatar
    Anna Kocharov

    it’s not at all about trust but about the capacity of citizens to reason and research info. there is a war in Ukraine and there is no such thing as impartial reporting in war, whatever the side. we do not have free press in Europe or anywhere else for a simple reason: all discussion goes in the same direction. There is no discussion at all, in any national or European press, about the ECONOMY and the impact on the economy and about how much of our taxpayer money will now be spent, directly or indirectly, on military in Europe or abroad (paid for with our money anyways). and why is there no discussion of whether individual Member States should be allowed to join military alliances at random (today Estonia decides to join Nato, tomorrow Hungary decides to join some alliance with Russia and some other Member State with China?) – instead of the EU joining the NATO together as a Union? If we are so afraid of Russia, this is what the EU should do. Europe has no free press and no free politicians either…

  10. avatar
    Suncica Cvitkovic Anderson

    Anybody from ex communist countries know what russis are and that they are aggressive bastards that do not respect nothing and nobody! Commies!

  11. avatar
    Aleksandros Ho Megas

    @Jorge Qoqe
    You are wrong in regard Yugoslavia, it wasnt unilateral independence from the state, but secession because Yugoslavia was a Federation of States. When Serbia blocked needed revision of federal level, because of their strong nationalists and failed economies, they even canceled legal autonomy statuses for their autonomous counties of Kosovo and Vojvodina and still retaining their votes on federal level..
    Add to this it is needed to stress that Yugoslavia was a communist dictatorship that killed over a million Croats, and as much forced to emigrate, and that in history Yugoslavia before WW2 was turned by force into a kingdom under the dictatorship of Serbian King; it was obvious that Slovenia and Croatia which were making the economy more than all other Republics together (Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia) while getting less back will not want to stay like this forever. Serbian hegemonists were always trying to achieve Serbian superiority over the others, but with the wrong means; like with Agreement of Novi Sad when Yugoslavia de-facto made Croatian language forbidden. Then JNA (Yugoslavian Army) which was mostly financed from Slovenian and Croatian funds disarmed local territorial defense forces of Slovenia and Croatia (which when conflict started, by Serbs at Plitvice region, ended up in Serbian hands), JNA never in whole Yugoslavian conflicts (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo) acted on their mandate to protect all people of Yugoslavia but the served as Serbian faction (which was no wonder since their high command was almost all Serb) and that is how war started; though EU, IMF, and world powers added a lot to that conflict.

    • avatar

      Don’t forget that Croatia collaborated with Nazi Germany and committed many similar crimes against humanity with Ustasa militia against Serbs. Does Jasenovac ring a bell?

      And how about the Baltic states and Western Ukrainians that gleefully helped Germany with its ‘final solution’ against jews and Russian slavs. No wonder Russia does not trust its western neighbours.

  12. avatar
    Debby Teusink

    We can inform ourselfs through all kinds of media and there are a lot of people defending putin in the EU, but it is their right to do so in our free society. So if you wish to be informed, you can be. We have no censorship, unlike Russia.

  13. avatar

    Governments everywhere try to control or influence the media narrative. This is a given and has always happened to varying degrees.

    One of the biggest reasons today for the mistrust is that people have seen (re: Iraq war) how much some western governments told outright lies and alsi how much of the media behaved as propagandists and blibdly printed anything Bush/Blair said without even attempting serious journalistic work.

    For example, in 1990 the BBC outright censored just about any opinion that was negative about Desert Storm, and no one at the time questioned the lies ghe daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador told.

    Also, its not always what the media say, but also what they don’t report. One can manipulate opunion by omission.

    The media’s task is to report the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth at all times. Too often journalists allow friendly politicians influence over what they do and do not write.

    The EU itself is a case in point, the British media might sometimes be too negative, but the continental media is often way too friendly and fails to fully inform the public.

    It is not a journalists task to decide what and how people ought to think or to serve the news the government wants us to hear. How many main stream media have for example reported on the neo nazist character of a significant minority of those who ‘fought’ to remove the previous Ukrainian president? Or neo nazi volunteers from Sweden and Germany?

  14. avatar
    Antonio Pinto Caldeira

    Nowadays anyone willing to know the facts is obliged to read several news outlets in order to assess both sides of the story. No we cannot trust our governments or our media as both of them are conveyer belts of hiden agendas.

  15. avatar
    Pan Sol

    only german goverment say the truth, i will take all your money and bit you as much i can

  16. avatar
    catherine benning

    How could anyone who comes here and takes an interest in the workings of this charade answer that with a yes? Except, of course, those dumb Ukrainians who believe they are going to do well when they hand their country over to the US/EU….. Look at the track record of all the EU scribes. This is a stooge leadership. How any of them can go along with this utter repugnance heading for the US game of nuclear warfare boggles the mind. Do they really want to kill and die for these cretins? Which one of them will be out there on the front line first. Or, is the plan for robotic soldiers in the drone game to be the medal makers now?

    Do any of these player have family, children and grandchildren here on European soil?. And if so, where are they? Are they really on the European continent? I doubt it, or, if they are they won’t be for long. Barbados here I come. Martinique get out the flags the medallion crowd are ready to fly your way. .

    And the Western men who put on the suit of soldier must belong to the remedial class. The treatment of the British soldiers returning disabled, blind, deaf and limbless from those American wars they recently went stupidly to fight for are treated like a pariah class once home. Homeless, no proper benefits, no proper care. Ask there families. One of those guys was openly beheaded on our streets by a man who got a twenty five year prison sentence, but, who is already being granted legal aid to fight in court to reduce his sentence.

    The most disgusting photo I saw this morning was a picture of, Charles, Prince of Wales, virtually on his knees to the rapidly aging Obama. The sick bag was needed as I went through the pictures.

    It appears Farage was right after all, the EU is being run by a bunch of half wit clowns who have no idea where they are going with all this. Ukraine is a con. Putin is being used by the arms dealers of the West as a focus on bogeyman and the dim witted Eastern bloc think the EU will save them from themselves once they become members of that great peace machine NATO.

    And guess who is the biggest stooge of all in this fiasco? It is the European tax payer.Those footing the bill for this merde to proceed. And not one of the low lives there at this meeting are telling a word of truth either to us or he world. Not European or yank….

    And the sound of the leaders voices as they sing their ‘stand by me’ mantra is deafening. Take note of the absolute suitable case for treatment on the right. And remember, this war will not reach the shores of these American backers. They want ‘us’ to die for their laughing faces.

    And a remembering service.

    Hope you can laugh as jovially as the silver haired yank in the link above this last one. He likes bombing and he backs NATO in their bombing mission.

    • avatar
      Drust son of Erp

      Good to see someone has a bit of sense about reality Catherine, well said

  17. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    Once more a hands up- yes or no question?

    No. Better be selective, careful & critical whom you trust, specially all career politician and their parties, the security/propaganda/disinformation fraternity, the media and the many false messiahs- even check & question yourself at times!

    “Alternative information sources” is presumptuous, since it insinuates that there is only one correct source- the prevailing traditional, the status quo!

    No doubt, Flight MH17 was shot down- either by Kiev, the rebels or Russia through recklessness. The responsible parties are several: the airline’s careless choice of a dangerous air corridor, the political instigators lobbied by the 1% and creators of this US/Russia power struggle and EU’s devious enlargement drive! Once more, the innocent law abiding citizen paid the price! In years to come the simple truth will be known- never mind if the site was compromised or not.

    There will be “consequences” we are told- by the” honest & righteous” politicians! Again, these so called consequences are carried by ordinary folks- not by the phalanx of unsuitable & irresponsible decision makers and their diplomatic tail- all riding the same political bicycle!

    There need to be “equality” in “CONSEQUENCES” for the political blunder makers & their dishonesty! The table needs to be turned! Similar to e.g. in China or in ancient Greece. Swift prosecution in terms of corruption, human rights violation- and/or OSTRACISM!

    • avatar
      Topsy Kret

      Unfortunately not

  18. avatar
    Yannick Cornet

    The whole story concerning Russia is skewed since WWII, so no, as with everything else, mainstream media is just what it is: mainstream. For the complete picture, more sources are needed. Courrier International does a good job at collecting such diverse views concisely, that is my main source at least.

  19. avatar
    Unimatriks Ziro

    Jorge Q.. the situation had already been destabilised when Germany and Vatican (Icland was the FIRST) recognized Slovenia and Croatia. By the time Vukovar had been destroyed, ethnic cleansing and mass murders committed, Dubrovnik heavily damaged, no water, electricity, many people killed…many other towns&villages suffered the same fate. If there had been no recognition, there would be no Croats alive today, at least not in Croatia. Both Slovenia & Croatia were occupied by a less developed country of Serbia after WWI and we have suffered a national, cultural etc. regression in those cca. 70yrs. let alone human tragedies in the wars and in the whole post WWII period. The reason why you do not understand the situation here may be in the media you’ve been reading…The western forces have nothing to do with the 1990s conflicts in Croatia since it had been planned by Serbs almost a century before they occured. One should read books as well and in this respect one should understand Serbian, which you apparently cannot. Please note, no damage was done in Serbia.

  20. avatar
    Darcy Brás da Silva

    The only thing I will say is that every argument has more then one side and informed decisions need to know as much as possible about the story. Having that said, I now question the organization of debating europe what are the benefits of debating who we trust ?

    Trust is often something that needs to be earned, and this type of question, puts us citizens in a vulnerable position if we actually reply, because one may trust a not so trustworthy person, but one should not facilitate the discreditably of such person, otherwise our perception may become easily manipulable.
    Events determine who gains and loses our trust, and those should happen naturally. It is already hard as it.

  21. avatar

    No, they are biased and present only the facts that serve their aims but still things are far better than in other places, like Russia or Turkey, for example, where the media are completely controlled by an authoritarian government. Amidst the whole information in Europe you can still use your brain and work out what may be actually happening.

  22. avatar

    Basically, I don’t believe a single word the government or the main stream media says unless I can see it to be true with my own eyes. As a starter, this is always a good philosophy.

    Several examples:
    -Iraq 2003: US, its European lapdogs and the main stream media lied about WMD’s and lied about Saddam’s involvement in 9/11

    -Iraq 2003-2010: US and its European lapdogs involved in the killing of a quarter of a million people in the former Iraq alone (and yet today, Islamic State and Putin are the bad guys, but Bush and Blair roam around free, Blair even looting the treasury in Albania and Kazakhstan today)

    -Ukraine: media forgets to say that US and EU effectively bribed some groups into overthrowing an elected president, despite early elections already having been scheduled. Media fails to mention this is about US and EU trying to loot Ukraine’s resources for cheap, to be paid for by massive austerity to be imposed on ordinary Ukrainians. Western policy = looting resources by bribing enough local politicians.

    -Syria/Islamic State: western governments secretly and not-so-secretly sent weapons to the ‘Syrian opposition’ and then it turns out there is no moderate opposition but only Al-Nusra and Islamic State. So the ‘west’ is for the Islamic Staters in Syria but against them in Iraq. IS is entirely Saudi/Qatari funded and equipped with western weapons, yet again the media fails to identify the true bogeyman here: the US and its lapdogs.

    The US and its lapdogs have killed more people in the 21st century than the rest of the world combined, yet still they claim the high ground. Illegal wars, invasions, bombing, heavily subsidized coup d’etats, supporting dictatorships (Saudi, Qatar, Bahrain, Eq. Guinee and Brunei), death-by-drone, spying on world leaders yet totally missing the imminent rise of Islamic State and so on.

    Now who on earth would trust these western politicians and their media stooges?

  23. avatar
    Sakis Pastras

    European governments created a crisis, to gain power and media simply followed it…whistleblowers, silenced, news is sold, editing is the most heard word in media, journalist does not sound like a hero anymore, the biggest enemy the web…problem very much to filter, since 90% have now opinion but are title-readers!

  24. avatar
    Maia Alexandrova

    They are trusted only by those who hate Russia. The rest prefer to read more than one source of information to obtain a more realistic picture of events than simply propaganda.

    • avatar

      What about the Russian public, Maia, do they read anything else other than Putin-controlled Russian papers?

  25. avatar
    Breogán Costa

    NO, for sure they can’t, nor mass media, nor governments. If you want to know what could be happening:
    1.- take a look to the mass media (government side or government friends)
    2.- take a look to the other side of power media (opposition)
    3.- take a look to media from other countries (usually it is just mass media from there, but you can see what they think about us, or what their governments or corporations put in their minds, and some times you find some truth that “our” media avoid)
    4.- check social networks (different opinions, of course) and read about who is publishing that, what are their motivations or if they can be trusted
    5.- read alternative media (some is shit, but others have some incredible journalists and researchers collaborating with them)
    Now, maybe (just maybe) you can have an idea about what is really happening, but take in account that you might be wrong (so, never be a radical, always listen to people)

  26. avatar
    Paul X

    The inference of the question is do we think Governments and the Media lie?

    The answer is not very often…………. but they do manipulate or “forget” to tell the whole truth on a daily basis

  27. avatar

    I wrote to “spiegel online” asking why they never publish anything about the fact that there are planes from Ukrainian government which bomb the cities in the east.Well the answer was just rediculous.They answered that they are commercial and noone would buy it if they wrote facts ,that people don t want to hear….I mean this is just rediculous^^

    • avatar

      That the Ukrainian army is shelling the “rebel”-held towns in the east of Ukraine is constantly in the news, Alex. Perhaps, Spiegel is not such a good source of information.

  28. avatar

    Western Media is just as bad. Us in Scotland got the see the BBC in full propaganda mode during our recent referendum on Independence. Many things that appered before the vote have been disproved since

  29. avatar
    Topsy Kret

    Really, even the journalists themselves know that the media cannot be trusted. This is mainly to do with the fact that they are usually the ones making the stories up… they’ll do ANYTHING to get a “good scoop”, even if it means creating the story from scratch and feeding lies to our generations with a silver spoon of deceit. This is a serious problem that needs to be stopped immediately, otherwise it WILL get to the point of no return, when the media controls everything in the world… But how is that different from what we already have? The media has the power and ability to topple entire civilisations with a single, twisted and fictional word about the government. “Turn a troop against the general, and the entire army will fall.” – Julius Caesar.

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