A DW Akademie publication explores the relationship between Media and Information Literacy and our digital rights. It calls for further action and more projects that encourage civil society to stand up for their rights.
Media and Information Literacy is about accessing news, analyzing information to determine if it’s true or false, reflecting on one’s own media behavior and creating media content. But it is also about acting. Not only acting on one’s own behavior, but also standing up to demand change and protect others. How do our digital rights relate to MIL? How can project managers include digital rights topics in their MIL programs? How can MIL projects empower citizens to demand change? DW Akademie explores these questions in a new discussion paper.
Governance, internet platforms, access and safety all play a role in MIL.
Whether it is shutting down the internet, the spread of misinformation, new cyber security laws or algorithms that distribute news and information: for citizens, navigating the media and information ecosystem has never been so challenging. Crises affecting society, like the coronavirus pandemic, worsen an already difficult and complex situation.
As citizens, staying informed is a challenge: misinformation has become a serious and long-lasting societal problem, social media platforms have changed the logic of how we communicate and consume media, and many governments are clamping down on online rights by shutting down the internet or issuing new cyber security laws in the name of security. These developments profoundly impact the MIL skills that citizens need to navigate the vast media landscape.
There were more than 200 internet shutdowns worldwide in 2019.
Line between Facebook and internet blurry
For example, in a recent DW Akademie study on MIL in six African countries, respondents suggested that they can’t differentiate between Facebook and the internet. In Kenya, Burkina Faso and Ghana more than 40% of respondents judged Facebook as being equivalent to the internet.
This has serious implications for users as many consume information from a limited number of insecure websites and services. They are even more dependent on the business model, data collection and algorithms of a proprietary platform than being able to navigate the open internet freely and independently.
MIL projects should enable citizens to know the right tools, platforms and settings to communicate safely.
The fact social media companies are creating walled gardens where they centralize the Web to a hand full of platforms is something that has been on the radar of digital rights experts for a while. For example, Facebook’s Free Basics App, the stripped-down and data-free version of Facebook, was heavily criticized by digital rights experts for violating net neutrality in the past. Many governments decided to ban the app, for example India in early 2016. However, the above results of our own MIL study suggest that many users are still dependent on a limited number of proprietary platforms.
If users want to be media and information literate and empowered, MIL programs need to take digital rights into account. The first step to achieving this is to sensitize citizens regarding their digital rights and to impart knowledge on the concepts of both human rights and digital rights. We hope this paper helps to make clear the intersection between these rights and Media and Information Literacy.