The fund launched its first call for proposals in November 2021 to support fact-checking activities in Europe, This first initiative was followed by three further calls across three priority areas: “Multidisciplinary Investigations on Disinformation in Europe”, “Supporting Research into Media, Disinformation and Information Literacy Across Europe”, and “Media and Information Literacy for Citizens Empowerment”. Moreover, right after the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army, EMIF issued a special call to encourage fact-checking projects addressing conflict-related disinformation.
The total amount requested by applicants was around €19.4 million, well beyond EMIF’s planned budget for the year 2022. This is symptomatic of a significant funding gap for research and media literacy activities designed to counter disinformation in Europe.
Successive waves of orchestrated disinformation campaigns, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, have underscored the pressing need, in Europe, for a whole-of-society response to media manipulations and influence operations distorting the public discourse and eroding democratic values. By providing targeted financial support to fact-checking organisations, news media, research institutions, media literacy practitioners and civil society actors, EMIF is addressing such a need, and contributing to the achievement of more general public policy goals and EU-wide actions to tackle disinformation.
Throughout 2022, EMIF supported 33 projects in 21 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. These projects vary widely in their methodologies and interventions, from developing intelligence tools and using AI to detect disinformation, to empowering and training media literacy practitioners across countries and educational systems. Reducing the impact of disinformation in Europe is the shared objective of all funded projects.
Established as a partnership between the European University Institute (Italy) and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Portugal), EMIF conducts its funding activities in a way that is consistent with, and complementary to the overall mission of the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO), which is to bring together a multidisciplinary community of fact-checkers, media literacy experts and academic researchers in order to foster a better understanding and analysis of disinformation, in collaboration with news media, civil society organisations and online platforms. EDMO acts as an independent scientific advisor to EMIF.
Commenting on this milestone, Madeleine De Cock Buning, Chair of EDMO’s Advisory Board, stated that “Supporting independent research on disinformation, fact-checking and media literacy initiatives across all European countries is essential to strengthen societal resilience and empower citizens. The positive response that EMIF’s calls have received from the journalism and media literacy communities, as well as from academia, shows the need to foster a better understanding of the threats that disinformation poses to our democracies. Initiatives such as EMIF are necessary for a healthy digital media ecosystem in Europe.”
A new funding round for proposals aimed at boosting factchecking in Europe is now open until 28 February 2023. Additionally, EMIF is planning to launch new calls in its other three priority areas “Multidisciplinary Investigations on Disinformation in Europe”, “Supporting Research into Media, Disinformation and Information Literacy Across Europe”, and “Media and Information Literacy for Citizens Empowerment”, in January 2023.
About The European Media And Information Fund:
The European Media and Information Fund pursues objectives of public interest and provides grants, awarded on a competitive basis to research, fact-checking and news media organisations, as well as to not-for-profit organisations and other public interest-oriented bodies with a solid track record in research into disinformation, fact-checking, investigative journalism and media literacy. EMIF’s intervention areas currently include:
Fact-checking: An open and permanent call supports, through three yearly funding rounds, the challenges currently faced by many fact-checking organisations in Europe, whose limited resources still hinder their ability to scale up or integrate new skills and technologies in their newsrooms to increase the coverage, accuracy and timeliness of fact checks.
Multidisciplinary investigations on disinformation: By encouraging the production of focus reports and case-specific analyses, projects coming under this funding window are expected to provide deeper insights into concrete disinformation campaigns, different forms and techniques of media manipulation and their impact on target audiences.
Research and Sandboxes: This funding window supports in-depth research and data-driven analyses, as well as the development and testing of new methodological approaches, with a view to enhancing scientific knowledge and public understanding around the disinformation phenomenon, explore and expose relevant systemic risks, evaluate policy responses, and identify effective countermeasures.
Media literacy: the objective of this funding window is to catalyse best practices and stimulate new initiatives aimed at enhancing citizens’ ability to think critically and assess the trustworthiness of information shared through social media, while fostering civic behaviour in online environments.
Established as a multi-donor platform, EMIF’s start up operations have been made possible thanks to an inaugural donation by Google.