Presented by Simplicity

The internet has become a new, virtual battlefield. In recent years, major political events such as the U.S. elections, as well as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, have gone hand in hand with an upswing in misleading content online.

The U.S. government has been pushing social media companies to address the issue of misinformation, blaming them for not doing enough to moderate misleading content. In March 2021, the CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter appeared before Congress to face scrutiny over misinformation on their platforms. And while efforts to curb the power of Big Tech are in full swing, false information online continues to harm communities across the U.S.

For a more immediate response, local governments need to reconsider their communication strategies and try using innovative solutions to establish direct communication channels with residents. By doing so, cities can address the potential damage from misinformationin their communities and increase overall trust between the people and city hall.

City Communication Strategies

For city managers, a solid communication strategy serves as the vehicle for building trust with residents. A city’s official Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts are often the main sources of information from government officials to residents. Yet, considering the age of misinformation, such trust can be difficult to establish. According to research by Deloitte, 67% of people don’t trust the news they see on social media. What are some tips for city communication teams fighting this “infodemic”?

1. Misinformation: Ignore It

Studies have shown that if a piece of information is repeated several times, people are more likely to see it as truthful. When we see an online post that we think is a lie, it can be quite tempting to comment on it to show our outrage and disagreement. However, online interaction with a false fact makes it even more likely that the social media platform will show it to other people.

To reduce the spread of inauthentic news concerning cities and their communities, communications managers should try to reduce the visibility of misinformation by not engaging with it at all.

2. Support the Voices of Trusted Experts

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has made the information chaos in the online space even worse. Analysts at the Bruno Kessler Foundation scrutinized 112 million public social media posts related to the pandemic. They found that 40% came from unreliable sources. Meanwhile, Pew Research Centre reported that the people who receive their news primarily through social media are more likely to be exposed to misinformation.

To counterbalance Covid-related misinformation online, cities should elevate the voices of public health authorities. Official city communication can include quotes from medical professionals, celebrate their work, and provide the audience with access to credible websites.

3. Use Direct Communication Channels

A large proportion of global social media users admit that they do not trust social media platforms as a source of information. And yet they continue to access these channels on a daily basis. Cities and public agencies therefore have an important role to play as community leaders and need to ensure the right information gets through to residents. Misinformation, as well as the information overload online, makes this quest quite difficult.

Having recently closed an $8.5-million seed investment round, Simplicity is one of the pioneers in forging the future of communication between residents and their cities.The app simplifies the life of residents in cities across Europe and is now available to U.S. cities, as well.

The idea for the Simplicity app came from our university studies in Denmark, Scandinavia, where we noticed a lack of important announcements in the city where we were living. With the Simplicity app, citizens will never miss official information about new restrictions, roadblocks, deadlines for taxes and fees, or city emergencies,” said Co-Founder Juraj Gago.

Residents need one source delivering relevant, local updates from trusted authorities in real-time. Simplicity is that source. All in one place. No ads. No misinformation. No privacy issues. Delivered in real-time. Always accessible on your smartphone,” added Co-Founder Andrej Krupa.

Towards a Healthier Information Environment

Well-informed residents are the foundation of every vibrant city. Yet, when social media is swirling with misinformation, the truthfulness of the information that locals have access to needs to be nurtured. Effective communication is a building block of trust between government and the local community. City leaders therefore need to have an active, trusted presence in the information space occupied by their residents; only then can local communities flourish also in the physical space.

We’re part of a civic movement led by socially minded entrepreneurs who care about creating a healthy information environment. When this leads to the cultivation of vibrant communities in cities, we couldn’t be happier,” concluded Co-Founder Juraj Gago.

The internet has become a new, virtual battlefield. Protect yourself against misinformation and stay up to date with local updates from official sources only with Simplicity.