The role of social media on influencing elections dominates a Meeting of the EU MEDIA LITERACY EXPERT GROUP

Brussels, 15th of November 2016 – The EU Media Literacy Expert Group met in Brussels in November to discuss innovations in Media Literacy. IREX Europe’s Deputy Director Flora Graioni was invited to attend. (@EU_MedLit, @MediaEu, #EUML16). 90 participants from 28 Member States, 4 candidate countries, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and 20 European media professional associations and civil society networks attended. More information about the group can be found here, as well as most of the presentations shown during the meeting. One of the meeting’s highlights was when Facebook and Google representatives were questioned on how they will react to allegations that their social media sites are increasingly sources of misinformation with real potential to affect the democratic future of States. photo credit:

The meeting was devoted to 4 topics: 1/. Media literacy: coordination and synergies with other EU policies within the European Commission (prevention of radicalisation, fundamental rights and citizenship, digital skills, school education, youth policy and film literacy) 2/. Media literacy: building bridges between the media industry and the education sector to develop and disseminate critical thinking tools. 3/. Media literacy in the digital era: how to empower citizens who are active in on-line platforms with critical thinking tools? 4/. Presentation of the mapping of media literacy practices in EU-28 prepared by the European Audiovisual Observatory. During the panel “Media literacy in the digital era: how to empower citizens who are active in on-line platforms with critical thinking tools”, the audience was particularly active and several questions were put to Google and Facebook representatives. Although both reinforced the fact they don’t want to be called media companies but rather “tech companies”, they were challenged on where they stand regarding their responsibility when it comes to public service, pluralism and their influence on audiences, The debate was very timely with regards to the current discussions on Facebook’s influence via “fake news” on the US presidential elections. “Facebook will need to change its business model if it does want to address these editorial challenges. Currently, the truth of a piece of content is less important than whether it is shared, liked and monetized. These “engagement” metrics distort the media landscape, allowing clickbait, hyperbole and misinformation to proliferate. And on Facebook’s voracious news feed, the emphasis is on the quantity of posts, not spending time on powerful, authoritative, well-researched journalism. ” This is particularly relevant when we consider that many users, particularly among the younger and more technologically engaged prefer an algorithm to choose their news, rather than an editor (“Brand and trust in a fragmented news”, research led byReuters Institute. The new digital environment is dramatically changing the media’s role and position in society, and Media and Information Literacy actors will need to take a central role in finding technical, cognitive, social, civic and creative solutions for citizens allowing them to access reliable independent information and have a critical understanding of the media in all its forms, and how to interact with it.

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