In a situation like the current one, we need media literacy more than ever

On 10 March, 27 representatives of civil society organisations, educators and media literacy practitioners gathered in Brussels for the event “Get Your Facts Straight! Fighting disinformation and fake news through media literacy”.

Renato Sabbadini, CEO of ALL DIGITAL welcomed the participants by thanking them and reminding that in a situation like the current one, we need digital media literacy more than ever. People need the digital and critical thinking skills to distinguish between disinformation aimed at creating panic and credible sources providing relevant and much needed guidelines on public health.

Olga Gkotsopoulou, researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, opened the discussion by sharing her recent experience in organizing media literacy workshops for secondary school students and their teachers within the framework of the project “Get in shape for Europe”. The training covered personalized content, online identity, what kind of information we give out online, consciously or unconsciously, the role of parents, the different types of disinformation such as junk science, clickbait and political microtargeting. It focused on the intention of the author (an aspect that is in the focus of the Get Your Facts! training outline as well). Discussing and analyzing case studies of disinformation was one of the learning tools that worked particularly well. Students brought in some interesting examples such as fake kitchen hacks. AI news anchors were also part of this rich content, which fit in only three hours.

Finally, Olga shared some lessons learned from this experience:

  • Everyone cares about media literacy and disinformation – the students, but also their teachers, parents, custodians.
  • Inclusive learning models, in particular intergenerational models involving teachers and students (or parents and students, as in the case of Get Your Facts Straight!) are very useful to enhance the dialogue.
  • Training programmes should have clear learning goals.
  • Training programmes should occur at a regular basis because everything is changing at a fast pace and teachers find it difficult to catch up.
  • The is no panacea, but there are solutions to reach everyone and we should keep working in this direction.

Olga’s presentation is available here.

After Olga’s opening intervention, a panel of four distinguished experts continued the discussion and shared relevant reflections and food for thought.

Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck, CEO and Founder of Lie Detectors, spoke about their unique educational programme, which brings professional journalists to classrooms to discuss with 10-11 and 15-18-year-old students about disinformation, quality journalism and media literacy. She emphasized that teaching these topics should be engaging, fun, relevant to the youngsters, and at Lie Detectors they focus on selecting resources and examples from real life. They talk to the youngsters about things they care about, which do not necessarily have to do with elections or political campaigns. “Light” examples can also serve to have a deep discussion.

Juliane pointed out another successful feature of the programme, which helps Lie Detectors improve constantly – the feedback. At the end of each session, students have the change to share their feedback and this feeds into improving the progamme. Her presentation is available here.

Next, Paolo Cesarini, Head of Unit Media convergence and Social media at DG CNECT of the European Commission talked about the initiatives undertaken by his institution (apart from funding the project hosting the event) to promote media literacy, and the broader concept of civic literacy and civic engagement.

He outlined four main lines of action that the EC is planning to undertake in the short to mid-term:

  • Updating the Digital Education Action Plan (DEAP) in a number of areas. The plan will explore and expand the Safer Internet for Kids into a Safer Internet for Youth to focus on the civic part and help young people better understand their online rights. It will also involve an action on strengthening the framework around media literacy and in particular the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which is the first and only document at EU level obliging the member states to take concrete actions on media literacy. The new European Media Literacy Week, started a year ago, will also feature in the updated DEAP, as well as integrating media literacy into school curricula.
  • The second line of action focuses on supporting more initiatives on media literacy directly from Brussels, which means also increased funding, most probably from the future Creative Europe programme. At least 10 projects per year should be supported under the new financial framework as of 2021.
  • The third main initiative is the European media literacy observatory, funded by the Connecting Europe Facility.
  • And last but not least, the EC will support research on the long-term impact of digital media and intensive use of digital technologies on health and well-being.

Clara Hanot, from EU Disinfolab presented this relatively young think-tank with an ambitious mission – to tackle sophisticated disinformation campaigns targeting the EU through research, advocacy and outreach. Clara mentioned a number of interesting initiatives that the organization is currently involved in such as the Open Your Eyes project, which has a database of media literacy projects. Then, she took the audience through an interesting case study on one disinformation campaign, the Suavelos case, in order to illustrate the way her organization works to analyze and dismantle such cases. You can read more on the case itself, and the activities of EU Disinfolab in Clara’s presentation available here.

Finally, Flavio Grazian, from the European Citizen Action Service discussed the topic from the perspective of citizens’ online rights.
ECAS focus is to support citizens in knowing and exercising their rights, including with regard to online media and access to quality information.

After these interventions mapping different aspects of the fight against disinformation, and our main weapon media literacy, Gabriela Ruseva, Programme Coordinator at ALL DIGITAL, talked about the Get Your Facts Straight! project – ALL DIGITAL’s fair share in this fight. She also announced the launch of the Get Your Facts Straight! campaign and called all participants to promote it and to promote media literacy, because every intervention, every training, no matter how short or long, counts.

Ekaterina Clifford, Communication Manager at ALL DIGITAL, put this initiative in the context of our annual digital inclusion and empowerment campaign All Digital Week, which started in 2010 and since then involved thousands of partners across Europe and beyond. With this event Ekaterina officially launched the 2020 edition of the campaign and emphasized the fact that in the current situation a lot of events will be moved to a digital format or moved to later dates.

The event was web streamed and the recording is available on ALL DIGITAL YouTube channel.

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This project is co-funded by Preparatory action "Media literacy for all" of the European Commission DG CNECT. Grant Agreement: LC-01249049