Rumours are stories or pieces of stories that might be true or false and that have the characteristic of quickly spreading from a person to another. They are not systematically negative but they can become very harmful when they are based on stereotypes, i.e. on unchecked and prefixed ideas about what someone or something is like. Stereotypes feed into prejudice, which is an unfair and unreasonable opinion or feeling formed through a pre-judgment without enough thought or knowledge. At the level of today diverse societies, the spreading of stereotypes and prejudice through rumours can actually impact the way in which we relate to each other, the way in which we interact - or renounce to interact - with people of diverse origin and backgrounds.
Successful integration strategies require changes in the mind-set, attitudes and behaviour of both migrants and receiving communities. The difficulty of gaining access to reliable information or grasp the real impact (both negative and positive) of migration on communities is a major obstacle in achieving this goal, and people often tend to form their views on the basis of “myths” or stereotypes. The “Anti-rumour methodology” has been developed to counter diversity-related prejudices and rumours that hamper positive interaction lay the foundations of discriminatory and racists attitudes. Standardised through the publication of a Handbook, the methodology is being now applied by a growing number of cities.
Understood as a public policy, the Anti-Rumours strategy, is composed of a number of elements: identifying major rumours existing in a city; collecting objective data and also emotional arguments to dismantle false rumours; creating an anti-rumour network of local actors from civil society; empowering and training “anti-rumour agents”; and designing and implementing anti-rumour campaigns to raise awareness, including by creating and disseminating new tools and resources, both creative and rigorous.
Policy Brief 2021
C4i-Communication for Integration, co-funded by the Council of Europe and the European Commission (European Integration Fund), targeted prejudices, rumours and stereotypes by using viral information techniques to provide evidence-based answers to common misconceptions.