Online disinformation is discussed rarely and insufficiently, which sparked the production of a documentary that shows how harmful, fabricated content is limitless.
Junk Folder, a new film by director Alen Šimić produced by Mediacentar Sarajevo, talks about how much disinformation harms professional journalism and what journalism faces as a result, how professional investigative journalists and fact-checkers fight against disinformation, what fake news looks like and who is behind it. The audience that sees Junk Folder will certainly be “a little bit more informed” about things they knew little or nothing about, says Šimić in an interview with Mediacentar Sarajevo.
Disinformation has no borders, and the theme of Junk Folder – the spread of disinformation in the Western Balkans – shows just that, but also tells how insufficient media literacy is the cause of the spread of disinformation. Highly educated people sometimes do not recognize satirical texts. Šimić points out that disinformation is a global phenomenon that is rarely talked about in our region, and that should be pointed out.
“I uncovered the information from the film and many other tragicomic situations during research. The film was created at a time when the amount of information in general, let alone false information, circulating on a daily basis was unbearable. We still see the Internet as a market in Marrakesh where everything is allowed and where, precisely because it is not a physically existing place, we will not have to face any consequences”, emphasizes Šimić and adds that the reality should be different.
In the documentary, fact-checkers also talk about harmful content on the Internet, whose profession is important according to Šimić, but also has a double interpretation, as he says. “On the one hand, they are understood as serious and important, and on the other, they are looked down upon because they ‘spoil the work’ of others. I lean towards the first interpretation,” he says.
The film is permeated with imagery from landfills, and Šimić says that these scenes are actually a metaphor. “The film deals with the Internet, something that does not exist in physical form – except maybe through cables and servers. It is generally difficult to depict that world without it being a generic representation. We decided on a metaphor, since the film deals with disinformation – the garbage of the Internet. We filmed at a landfill that has actual garbage,” Šimić points out.
He believes that the public does not talk enough about disinformation and how the appearance of fake news can have a bad effect on the entire society.
“In my experience, it is absolutely not discussed, and moreover, it is a topic that everyone uses any way they can. When they have an army of trolls behind them who create false content for them, why would they bring attention to it and destroy their ‘business’ or call their own position into question”, adds Šimić.
The research for this film took more than a month, and the preparations for filming took two weeks and many meetings, says Šimić. He also says that this topic is particularly important for countries of the Western Balkans, because media literacy is not talked about enough, while some developed European countries introduce it into regular teaching curricula.
Dealing with a topic that concerns the collective, and not a topic that is attractive to him, was particularly challenging for Šimić while working on the documentary.
“I usually dealt with topics that are attractive to me and in a way that is interesting to me. This time I had to push all that aside and think more about the audience and how to present the subject matter to them in an interesting way,” says Šimić.
He also adds that he learned a lot about disinformation while working on the film. Also, as he points out, he realized at the same time that it was only a small part of the picture and that he would like to somehow continue doing something related to that subject in the near future.
The director also says that Junk Folder can raise awareness of fabricated content among a broader audience and awareness of the dangers that such content brings. When he did test screenings and sent the film to his friends with different affinities or education backgrounds, he always got the same response. “They, like me before them, did not know the extent of all this, and also what harm can be caused by the spread of such news,” he says.
Funded by the European Union
The regional program ‘RESILIENCE: Civil society action to reaffirm media freedom and counter disinformation and hateful propaganda in Western Balkans and Turkey’ is implemented with the financial support of the European Union by partner organizations SEENPM, Albanian Media Institute, Mediacentar Sarajevo, Kosovo 2.0, Montenegrin Media Institute, Macedonian Institute for Media, Novi Sad School of Journalism, Peace Institute and Bianet.
This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of SEENPM and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.