BBC and Nobel Prize team up to explore disinformation in new series

The thought-provoking new series from the BBC World Service explores the spread of disinformation and how to combat it, from its use by Russia in its war with Ukraine, to the rise of Covid vaccine disinformation, climate denial, and digital harassment online.

In a new four-part series titled ‘Whose Truth?’ Babita Sharma hears from Nobel Prize laureates, global analysts, activists, and changemakers to discuss global problems that are demanding a new approach to critical thinking. 

Four Nobel Prize laureates describe their experiences of disinformation in their field: Katalin Karikó, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2023; Oleksandra Matviichuk, whose organisation was one of the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize 2022; Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2001; and Maria Ressa, co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize 2021.

The partnership combines the expertise of Nobel Prize laureates and researchers with the BBC’s journalistic expertise and global reach across 43 languages. It will equip audiences with accessible and relatable content, to better understand and interrogate false narratives.  

Young adults face a world of unprecedented challenges. Not only are they facing global threats such as climate change, war and persecution, but they are doing so when the very fabric of what is considered real or truthful is under attack. 

Disinformation, an increased distrust of fact-based science and journalism, and the proliferation of fake news on social media, is threatening journalism, science and democracy worldwide. The series explores how critical thinking is a crucial skillset in combatting this spread.  

 Across four episodes we hear from Nobel Prize laureates about the spread of disinformation in their fields of work and the young people around the world combatting and exposing these distortions.

Jon Zilkha, Controller, BBC World Service English, said: “With the alarming rise of disinformation around the world, this thoughtful series considers how we navigate that challenge. Our partnership with the Nobel Prize Outreach will offer listeners insights from world-leading experts and their experiences of countering disinformation.”

 Simon Doyle, Chief Digital Officer, Nobel Prize Outreach, says: “Nobel Prize laureates often highlight the importance of critical thinking skills and express deep concern about the threats to fact-based worldviews. The series provides new insights into the risks but also shows that tools exist to combat disinformation to make better decisions. Through our editorial collaboration, we will strengthen each other’s voices and inspire audiences across the globe.”

Episode 1: Whose Truth? The vaccine 

How Nobel Prize laureate Katalin Karikó got caught up in the Covid vaccine disinformation wars. What was it like – as someone behind one of the vaccines – to be in the eye of the false information storm? Katalin tells her story to Babita Sharma.

And US educator and artist Young Elder tells Babita how she helped to build trust in the vaccine among Baltimore’s black community. She works with Hip Hop Health, an organisation combatting health and vaccine disinformation, started by rapper Doug E Fresh.

Episode 2: Whose truth? Russia vs Ukraine

Can information become a weapon of war? Oleksandra Matviichuk, whose organisation was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, is documenting alleged Russian war crimes against Ukraine. She talks to Babita Sharma about how she uncovers the evidence. Babita also speaks to a young Ukrainian digital platforms analyst, who is exposing disinformation around the war, and to founder and CEO of a US company which helps organisations protect themselves from social media manipulation.

 Episode 3: Whose truth? Climate change denial

Nobel Prize laureate Sir Paul Nurse wants science, not politics, to guide the debate surrounding climate change. But how do you convince the denialists? Babita Sharma takes us through the evolving strategies of those who claim climate change isn’t real. And she speaks to two young people who are trying to make a difference. 

 Episode 4: Whose truth? Online women haters

Attacked on social media – how Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa came under fire for doing her job as a journalist in the Philippines, covering the Presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, and challenging social media companies for spreading disinformation. She talks to Babita Sharma about the fight to stop social media being used to spread lies and hate against powerful women.

The series is produced by Ian Rose, Claire Williamson, and Philippa Goodrich for the BBC World Service, in partnership with Nobel Prize Outreach.

All four episodes of Whose Truth? will be available from Wednesday 5 June on The Documentary podcast feed wherever you get your BBC podcasts. It will  air weekly on BBC World Service radio from Saturday 15 June. 

Additional digital content includes a video showing what football fans’ support reveals about group bias; and a series of animations with critical thinking tips from Nobel Prize laureates including Claudia Goldin, Maria Ressa, Daniel Kahneman and Saul Perlmutter.