November 29, 2022

Disinformation Risk Assessment: The Online News Market in Colombia

Key Takeaways1/3

Of the 34 sites assessed, only one site had a minimum-risk of disinforming readers.

The Global Disinformation Index (GDI) has released a new report on disinformation risks within Colombia’s media market. This report is the result of the research led by GDI with the Center for Journalism Studies of Universidad de los Andes, from May through October of 2022.

The need for a trustworthy, independent rating of disinformation risk is pressing. GDI’s risk-rating framework provides crucial information to policymakers, news websites and civil society, enabling key decision makers to stem the tide of money that incentivises and sustains disinformation. 

The following report presents the findings pertaining to disinformation risks for the media market in Colombia, based on a study of 34 news domains.The sample was defined based on the sites’ reach (using each site’s Alexa rankings, Facebook followers, and Twitter followers), relevance and the ability to gather complete data for the site.


Colombia is one of the most populated countries in Latin America with a population of over 51 million, and the third main digital market in the region, after Brazil and Mexico.

In 2020 the advertising spending was 1.2 billion dollars, roughly 6% of the region’s total advertising spending (27 billion dollars). Digital advertising has grown rapidly during the last decade. In 2020, digital advertising spending was estimated at 357 million dollars, more than double the amount reported three years before. As of 2021, digital advertising accounts for about 33% of total advertising spending. However, television is still the medium with the highest ad revenue, as non-digital platforms account for 67% of total ad spending.

The media market in Colombia includes more than 50 newspapers, over 1,500 radio stations and about 50 television channels (among 3 national and 8 regional public channels), and a wide range of native and non-native digital outlets. However, Colombian media lacks plurality, as three main economic groups own the most consumed media: two privately owned open television networks, two national-level newspapers, and two main radio networks.

Pivotally, in addition to this context, according to Reporters Without Borders, Colombia is one of the Western hemisphere’s most dangerous countries for journalists. Reporters and editorial staff covering topics like the armed conflict, corruption, collusion between politicians and illegal armed groups, and environmental issues are often harassed, intimidated, and attacked.  During the last 4 years, 753 journalists were threatened and 5 were killed. There were also 347 aggressions against journalists by civil servants, and 411 by the police and armed forces members.

The complex political, economic and social landscape fosters disinformation risks.


The findings for Colombia's news sites in the sample show that 1 site out of 34 is classified as minimum-risk, 14 as low-risk, 15 as medium-risk, and 4 sites fell in the high-risk category in terms of disinformation risk.

The overall average score for the Colombian sites is 58 out of 100. Overall, many of the high-risk factors in Colombia come from weak journalistic and editorial checks and balances in their newsrooms. Hence, domains achieved an average score of only 32 on the Operations pillar, compared with the higher average score of 84 on the Content pillar. 

The low score in the Operations pillar suggests that many of the disinformation risk factors come from a lack of transparency of the site’s operations and policies, especially editorial policies, sources of funding, and ownership. Colombian sites could considerably improve their scores by disclosing more information about their operational and editorial policies.

The majority of the domains, over 40%, in the sample were rated as medium-risk. These sites lack transparency about various editorial and operational policies that have the potential to increase the site’s independence and accountability (scoring an average of 27 on the Operations pillar). These sites have the greatest likelihood of reducing their risks going forward by clarifying their editorial policies, sources of funding, and ownership, and by addressing their byline policy.

Twelve percent of the sites in the sample present a high-risk of disinformation. Many of these sites publish biased content, thus creating an opportunity to manipulate their audience. These same sites publish stories not covered by other outlets, creating informational asymmetries for certain groups in the country. They also severely lacked transparency in their ownership and funding, creating the potential for conflicts of interest.

Looking at the overall sample, the assessment developed in this report depicts an encouraging scenario. A significant overall risk of disinformation amongst news sites in Colombia must be addressed, but for many sites there is a clear and attainable path to lower their operational disinformation risks.


In this Global Disinformation Index study on Colombia’s media market, most sites (44%) fall in the medium-risk category, and 41% of sites in the low-risk category, while 12% present high disinformation risk.

Domains’ overall ratings are generally brought down by operational shortcomings, especially regarding transparent information about a site’s ownership and funding structure, and other operational and editorial policies, such as source attribution guidelines and fact-checking practices. 

News sites could address these shortcomings by taking actions such as:

  • Focus on adopting journalistic and operational standards, such as those set by the Journalism Trust Initiative, and make those policies transparent on the site.
  • Clearly publish their sources of funding on their site rather than a parent company site. This information helps to build trust in the site and dispel doubts about how it is funded or about any potential sources of influence or conflicts of interest.
  • Publish a statement of editorial independence, and guidelines for ensuring accuracy and attribution in reporting, along with guidelines for issuing corrections.
  • Include fact-checking practices and ensure that they are implemented before and after publication of content.

Read the report for GDI’s full analysis — and to learn more about what newsrooms in Indonesia can do to diminish risks of disinforming their readers.

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