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Monday, July 6, 2020

Council of Europe and hate speech Baku 2019 – Bissera Zankova

“Hate speech for the purpose of the Recommendation entails the use of one or more particular forms of expression -namely, the advocacy, promotion or incitement of the denigration, hatred or vilification of a person or group of persons, as well any harassment, insult, negative stereotyping, stigmatization or threat of such person or persons and any justification of all these forms of expression –that is based on a non-exhaustive list of personal characteristics or status that includes “race”, colour, language, religion or belief, nationality or national or ethnic origin, as well as descentage, disability, sex, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation.” 


VR and Social Media and Online Training: Medical Realities - Basic Life Support during Covid-19

Educational video for Medical Realities on Basic Life Support During Covid - 19 for training medical staff. The project was created during lockdown in UK using entirely online network methodology for media production. Students from Escape studios volunteered to contribute to the production aiding NHS by working from home computers and using online tools for development and communication.

Producer: Escape Studios, Pearson College; Art Director: Iliana Franklin; Digital Color: Leroy Dias; Previs: Molly Babington; Script: Stevie Stedman; Sound design: Austin Hill. 

Mediaframe Studios presents: Episode # 1: “Identity Theft” by Brigita Auskalnyte

Content creators usually have a following – followers. It is portrayed as a crowd that follow the creator. Within the crowd there is always someone there wanting to use the artist. So they sneak up, steal either their work or even their identity and use to their advantage online. The crowd then starts to follow the faker and push the real artist aside giving the thief more attention because they do not know any better. People are keen to notice artists through their work and not personality, so if someone reports content without permission, the fans most likely will think it’s posted by the original creator and then end up giving support to the thief.

Mediaframe Studios Presents: Social Media Injustice. Episode 2: "Wild Wild Web"

“The comparison of fake news detecting and fact-checking AI based solutions” by Andrej Školkay and Juraj Filin 
Information disorder is a term that is increasingly being used as an umbrella for the concepts of disinformation, misinformation and malinformation. It proliferated as a novel and useful term to describe the unwanted state of information pollution online, which has sparked an intensive academic and political debates. 
Read more:

Mediaframe presents: Social media and injustice - Episode # 3 "Bittersweet"

We start from the basic premise that gender equality comprises an important aspect of the general issue of equality in society perceived as social involvement, use of and benefiting from all social opportunities on an equal footing by everyone. It is a fundamental human rights’ principle and “women’s human rights are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights.”

Monday, June 22, 2020

Disinfodemic responses: how to assess their challenges and risks

Bissera Zankova, Media 21
UNESCO is one of the international organisations in the COVID-19 crisis that carry out continuous and in-depth research on disinformation issues. In addition to analysing the forms and impacts of false information in the time of pandemic, UNESCO clarifies the range of responses to this content in its brief titled “Disinfodemics, Dissecting responses to COVID-19 disinformation”. The brochure assesses the potential risks associated with restrictive measures and provides recommendations on how responses can be improved to align to international human rights standards on access to information, freedom of expression and privacy. 
Responses to disinfodemic are grouped under four umbrella categories of modalities:
•Monitoring and investigative responses (which contribute to identifying COVID-19 disinformation, debunking it, and exposing it);
• Law and policy responses (which together represent governance of the media ecosystem);
•Curation, technological and economic responses (which are relevant to the policies and practices of institutions mediating content);
• Normative and ethical, educational and empowerment responses (which aim at enhancing the critical thinking of the audiences targeted by disinformation).
The first category of responses is focused on the monitoring of fast-spreading information, checking its correctness and identifying who published it and for what purpose. Fact-checkers comprise the central group implementing thеse approaches. In the infodemics, fact-checkers face a number of challenges. One of the difficulties they experience, at scale and with impact pertains to the effectiveness of fact-checking operations in all countries and languages. These conditions are necessary to be in place in order to enable societies to access the information needed and to ensure that the measures are both effective against false information, and are consistent with the international human rights standards.
Another problem is the impact of debunking information. It is widely known that fact checks tend to attract fewer user shares on social media than the viral disinformation they expose. Also, a valid concern is that drawing attention to falsehoods can help amplify them. Despite the practical obstacles due to the peculiarities of social media communication, the verification and debunking efforts remain a crucial means for surfacing truth, and for holding individuals, public figures, institutions and the news media accountable for inaccurate claims.
Journalists represent another group that has essential responsibilities in extraordinary circumstances such as the current pandemic.  Journalists, as key investigators of disinformation, are under particular stress stemming from the characteristics of COVID-19. This is because of the size and complexity of the reporting task, as well as revenue shortfalls that threaten newsroom payrolls and capacity for investigation, and the normal safety human and professional risks. The critical challenge here is that if the news industry is unsustainable, a major force for identifying and exposing disinformation will be lost, leaving a barren field for disinfodemic to proliferate. 
Journalists are not only covering events but are also digging into issues around the different responses to the disinfodemic; thus promoting the policy debate about related topics of public interest. Through all this, the crisis is an opportunity for journalists to strengthen their skills and credibility, as well as increase the visibility of their role in times of emergency. Therefore freedom of expression and the liberty and status of journalists should be fully protected and guaranteed. 
The second category of responses encompasses measures governing the production and distribution of COVID-19 disinformation. There is a grave risk that restrictive responses that curtail COVID-19 disinformation, could also impede free and quality journalism. By banning “fake news”, legal responses may intentionally or unintentionally censure critical journalism, if legal provisions are not in conformity with international standards. Heavy handed responses to disinformation, such as 'fake news' laws, could actually stifle journalistic work and diminish the contribution of other info players, engaged in vital research, investigation and storytelling about the pandemic.
Instead of circumscribing journalistic activities by raising impediments to the free circulation of information, support for independent journalists and public service media, as well as media literacy initiatives, can prove more efficient to ensuring the sustainability of journalism as a public good in the broader sense of the term. The Internet companies could also extend programmes designed to compensate news publishers. An example of such programmes is Facebook Journalism Project Community Network Grant Program. The project acknowledges that accurate and timely news coverage is critical to communities in trying times and provides financial support to help cover unexpected costs associated with coronavirus reporting for local newsrooms across the US and Canada. 
Responses within the production and distribution of COVID-19 disinformation pertain to curation, technological and economic approaches that are relevant to the policies and practices of institutions mediating content. This modality of responses concentrates on actions within the primary institutions, such as news media, social media, social messaging and search services in the communications sphere. In some cases, these responses aim to reduce economic incentives for people seeking to make money out of COVID-19 disinformation, impacting on production; in other cases, responses pursue the reduction of transmission of such content. In addition to the measures undertaken against disinfodemic, the current pandemic is the appropriate time for internet communications companies to trigger transparency and accountability mechanisms, and embrace multi-stakeholder engagement. In this way, they can demonstrate their interest in improving their policies and practices to encourage quality information in the face of COVID-19 disinformation.
The fourth group of responses represents responses that strive to support the target audiences of COVID-19 disinformation campaigns. The goal is to prepare people to be active agents and resist the disinfodemic on their own. These measures work on the assumption that audience behaviours are influenced by norms, ethics, knowledge and skills. The main opportunity is not only to remind people of norms related to access to information and freedom of expression, and provide education to help them, but also to deepen and reinforce such knowledge and necessary skills in a complex and dynamic environment.2wwq
Conclusions define the ten types of responses to the disinfodemic as being complementary to each other and representing a holistic package of interventions. An admonition is raised that many initiatives of the disinfodemic responses now operate in the absence of empirical evidence. Understandably, it is too early for their underlying assumptions to be tested in terms of factual impacts, which include monitoring and evaluating for unintended effects with respect to the right to freedom of expression, access to information and privacy. 
An interesting insight about responses is that there is gender-blindness in many of them. This fact poses the risk of missing the subtle differences in how false content often targets various people, as well as how these people respond to the content and counter measures. A persistant problem is that the vast bulk of the authoritative faces and voices of the COVID-19 crisis are still male, and there is a clear need for greater female inclusivity in responding to both the disinfodemic and the actual pandemic. The perceptions of children, elderly and people with disabilities also remain largely under represented.

Access to reliable and accurate information in COVID-19 pandemic: a matter of life and death

Bissera Zankova, Media 21

Undermining the right to health could generate serious risks for society and generations ahead. Disinformation represents a hazardous tool that can seriously jeopardise this right during the raging COVID-19 pandemic. In such grave crisis, disinformation can prove more toxic and perilous than ever. These arguments motivated UNESCO to coin the term “disinfodemic” and within its frame to clarify what types of international responses could be undertaken. UNESCO’s brief “Disinfodemic. Deciphering COVID 19 disinformation” systematises the main themes and dominant formats of COVID-19 disinformation and presents a range of measures against its deplorable outcomes. The analysis draws on research being conducted for the ITU-UNESCO Broadband Commission and UNESCO, to be published later in 2020, which addresses a wider range of disinformation subjects, types and responses. 
The booklet identifies four key disinfo demic format types: emotive narrative constructs and memes; fabricated websites and authoritative identities which report bogus cases of COVID-19; fraudulently altered or decontextualized images; disinformation campaigns which aim at stirring discord, nationalism and hostile geopolitical agendas.
The most frequent themes span a broad range of unproven or perverted information. These issues pertain to the origins and spread of the coronavirus disease, which are usually associated with the „Chinese virus“, 5G networks or chemical manufacturers, invalid statistics, misleading data about the economic and health impacts of the pandemic, discrediting of journalists and credible news outlets, dangerous disinformation about prevention, treatments and cures, panic and miracle stricken theories, politicization, theft of private data and false stories about celebrities being diagnosed with COVID-19
Instruments against disinfodemic merit a special focus. Among them social media monitoring and fact-checking are vital tools for measuring and understanding disinformation. According to UNESCO, between January and March 2020, over 1,500 COVID-19 related online falsehoods were fact-checked and debunked by an International Fact Checking Network (IFCN) initiative currently spanning 70+ countries. Fact-checking can be complemented by investigative exercises that dig deeper into the role of coordinated disinformation campaigns, including actors, degree and means of spread, financing and communities affected. 
Adopted laws or regulations, in a state of emergency due to the pandemic, provide for the prosecution of people with custodial sentences ranging up to five years for producing or circulating disinformation. Such provisions carry the risk of infringing freedom of expression rights more broadly and impairing democracy. Other kinds of policy responses include support for the news media. The World Association of Newspapers (WAN-IFRA) has identified state aid packages or tax exemptions for the media and media employers in Denmark, Belgium, Hungary and Italy. This kind of policy mechanism can be effective if relying on transparency, impartiality and independence. Among positive measures financial support for public service media is also being advocated as a vehicle encouraging high quality journalism. 
The national and international counter-disinformation campaigns count on the efforts of the World Health Organisation (WHO), UN, UNESCO and some governments which apply lists of verified debunks, rapid response units or WhatsApp chatbots. 
Users can be guided to access authoritative sources of public health information if the Internet communications companies apply curation of content. Such strategy can be helpful with a view of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression recommendations that demand safeguards to avoid the elimination of legitimate content in acts of ‘private censorship’. Applying automation and/or Artificial Intelligence (AI) in order to detect and limit the spread of disinformation can be an efficient means for combating disinformation, but it could also cause complications from a human rights perspective. In cases where automation errs, the dilution of the right to appeal (the lack of recourse to a human based review process) and the non-availability of a robust correction mechanism can imperil the users’ freedom of expression. FB, YouTube, Google and Twitter have already raised calls for caution in this respect. 
Ethical and normative responses include public censure of acts of disinformation, or resolutions aiming at thwarting these acts. Such statements could come from UN special rapporteurs, WHO officials, and political leaders and may have a strong impact on society. In addition, there have been examples of calls for reinforcing ethical conduct within journalists and the Internet communications companies.
Educational responses are aimed at promoting citizens’ media literacy based on critical thinking and digital verification skills. These approaches can address persons from an early age, such as the London School of Economics (LSE) guide to helping children navigate COVID-19 disinformation for families forced by the pandemic to homeschool their children. An initiative that strives to engage a broad number of media specialists to help inculcate media literacy among users was UNESCO crowdsourcing call for translations of its handbook “Journalism, ‘Fake News’ and Disinformation” into multiple new languages. The so called ‘signposting’ involves providing links to trustworthy sources of information and can effectively enhance educational efforts. For example, the Harvard Medical School identifies signals for reliable information sources and provides information on ways how to spot them. In addition, websites’ credibility is graded in order to help citizens quickly exclude unreliable websites.