Media Trust and Credibility

Misinformation campaigns are not new, the advent of Donald Trump has seen them taken on the more popular terminology of ‘Fake News’. Used by politicians, the term is more commonly used to attack and undermine the credibility of media. For example, one of the most common responses to the stories associated with the #GuptaLeaks was that they were “fake news”. At the same time, and in addition to social media networks established to disseminate misinformation, a range of websites have been set up to peddle similar half-truths, stereotypes and propaganda.

Not only are these campaigns deeply damaging to the reputations of those targeted, but they also perpetuate falsehoods, stereotypes and undermine media freedom. We also know that with each iteration of a misinformation campaign, social media bots get smarter and the campaigns get more nuanced. Ironically, this serves to highlight and reinforce the importance of credible media. We have also witnessed how media organisations and individuals/journalists are regularly challenged about their alleged hidden agendas or interests on social media platforms. We believe that one way to combat this system of misinformation, distrust and confusion is to focus on identifying those media who are open and credible.

For this, we need media organisations to be open about their ownership structure, and for journalists, columnists, and commentators to disclose their individual interests.

We will achieve this by offering some of the online solutions, outlined below:

MMA’s Media Credibility Theory of Change



KnowNews Chrome extension: This extension is freely available for download in the Chrome Browser Web Store. Once installed, a small button to the right of the web browser is displayed which indicates whether the site the user is currently on is from a trustworthy media news site, a “dodgy” site or is yet to be listed. At the moment, the extension is only available on a Chrome browser.





Open & Disclose: Open & Disclose (Phase 1) has been prototyped and launched. This is an online platform where media houses and journalists can voluntarilycreate a profile and disclose their interests in an open and accountable manner. The platform allows for all legitimate news sites to carry a badge that identifies the media house and the author. This allows political parties and the public to readily identify credible sources of informationand cut through some of the muddied waters as to which media houses to trust or not. We already have support for the platform from Caxton media, Tiso Black Star, the Mail & Guardian and News24, as well as SANEF, IAB and the Press Council.




News Reader App – RoveR: The idea is to develop a mobile app that helps build both user and media reputation. We have already carried out extensive work and planning on the app, and we will be rolling out some user testing for its viability in the very near future via a survey to spot real or rubbish news on news websites. This will then feed into Open & Disclose and our ‘KnowNews’ chrome browser extension.


Ultimately, all these platforms will converge to create a credibility index that will be used to increase media credibility across media consuming public.