Media literacy key ‘to combating fake news, hate speech’

Magda Abu-Fadil
Updated 16 May 2017
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Media literacy key ‘to combating fake news, hate speech’

JEDDAH: Media literacy in the Arab world is still “nascent,” but building awareness of critical-thinking skills can help fight fake news and hate speech, an expert in the field has said.
Seasoned journalist Magda Abu-Fadil — who has worked for international news organizations like Agence France-Presse (AFP) and United Press International (UPI), and now runs workshops for journalists — was lead editor of “Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).”
The book, published late last year, is a group effort by media experts to document the state of media and information literacy — and, said Abu-Fadil, “often the lack, or scant application” of it — in this region.
The book was the result of cooperation between the UN Alliance of Civilizations, UNESCO and the International Clearinghouse on Children, Youth and Media at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
Aimed at educators, the media industry, government decision-makers and parents, the book’s 13 chapters, by several different authors, give perspectives from across the Arab world.
It outlines the importance of the subject given the scourge of the “digital propaganda engines of groups spreading hate, polarization and extreme violence across the world.”
Abu-Fadil said: “Media literacy is one of the keys to deciphering and combating fake news, extremism and hate speech. One must first understand and discern what’s fake, extremist and hateful, before being able to mount an effective and sustained counter-attack.”
Media and information literacy is “nascent” in the MENA region because of the disparities in education and media systems, Abu-Fadil added.
“Whereas you see an interest in promoting the concept and its application in countries like Lebanon, the UAE and Qatar, as well as varied aspects of it in Tunisia, for example, you need proper training of those who impart knowledge to understand how media and information are gathered, disseminated, deconstructed and analyzed — from elementary school all the way up to the university, and beyond,” she said.
“Being ‘nascent’ in the MENA region means we must do some very fast catching up, in deeds, not just in words. We must allocate the required budgets to pursue that goal and train the trainers who will make it happen.”
But she acknowledged that with fake news on the rise globally — and even having been attributed to swinging the election in the US — this issue is of worldwide importance.
“There definitely is a global shortfall in media literacy, as witnessed from the US election… the French election, the Dutch election and wherever else there are high stakes,” she said.


Nestle, AT&T pull YouTube ads over pedophile concerns

Updated 22 February 2019
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Nestle, AT&T pull YouTube ads over pedophile concerns

  • A video from a popular YouTuber and a report from Wired showed that pedophiles have made unseemly comments on innocuous videos of kids
  • YouTube has faced advertiser boycotts in the past, including a widespread boycott in early 2017

SAN FRANCISCO, US: Several companies, including AT&T and Nestle, are pulling advertisements from YouTube over concerns about inappropriate comments on videos of children.
A video from a popular YouTuber and a report from Wired showed that pedophiles have made unseemly comments on innocuous videos of kids. The comments reportedly included timestamps that showed where kids innocently bared body parts.
YouTube says it disabled comments on tens of millions of videos and deleted offending accounts and channels.
Nestle and Fortnite maker Epic Games say they paused ads on YouTube while the company works on the issue. AT&T says it has removed ads until YouTube can “protect our brand from offensive content of any kind.”
YouTube has faced advertiser boycotts in the past, including a widespread boycott in early 2017. Since then YouTube has made efforts to be more transparent about how it deals with offensive comments and videos on its site.
But the latest flap shows how much of an ongoing problem offensive content continues to be, said eMarketer video analyst Paul Verna.
“When you think about the scope of that platform and what they’re up against, it is really like a game of whack-a-mole to try to prevent these problems from happening,” he said.
Still, because of the powerful advertising reach of YouTube’s parent Google, brands are unlikely to stay away from YouTube for long, he said.
Digital ad spending in the US is expected to grow 19 percent in 2019 to $129.34 billion this year, or 54 percent of estimated total US ad spending, according to eMarketer, with Google and Facebook accounting for nearly 60 percent of that total.
“At the end of the day, there’s a duopoly out there of Google and Facebook,” for digital advertising, he said. “Any brand that doesn’t play the game with either is potentially leaving a big marketing opportunity on the table.”