Internews’s Berhan Taye on Digital Literacy and MisinformationAug 16, 2021
"Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and others provide options for people to speak," said Berhan Taye, a senior advisor at Internews, a nonprofit supporting independent media in 100 countries. She joined Orchid's Derek Silva on this week's episode of Priv8.
Berhan explained that although these platforms "are not necessarily controlled by governments," some authoritarian states use social media platforms to their advantage.
Before the advent of social media, "governments [would] shut down media houses—they [would] physically go to printing presses, turn off the lights, take the equipment, arrest everyone, and move onto the next one," Berhan said. Now that people use Twitter and Facebook as platforms for independent journalism, many governments take a different tack, using these same platforms to spread misinformation and sow confusion and conflict.
"In places where the government has controlled the narrative [in traditional news media] for so many years, these narratives are now also going around on social media," Berhan said. This is particularly common in regions where "trust has been [broken], journalists have been killed and arrested, and human rights have been violated" repeatedly over many decades.
"So how do you tell people what's right or wrong—what's true or false?"
Digital literacy certainly plays an important role. "A lot of the conversations that I have with my own family and other folks let them know that 'yes—anyone can make a YouTube video,'" Berhan said. "In many places, this kind of [knowledge] is not very common. So, the fact that an organized group can make and share a video that looks like the news is mind-blowing for a lot of people.
"You have to provide people with basic digital literacy and skills that will allow them to identify super-sophisticated misinformation campaigns organized by governments," Berhan said. "It's not easy to navigate that."
Teaching digital literacy skills helps individual people as well as their communities. "It's not as though misinformation didn't exist before the advent of the Internet," she said. "It did. But the way that it has divided communities [in many areas of the world]" has become much more pronounced. "So the question then becomes, 'how do you talk to your family?'"
Check out Derek's entire conversation with Berhan. And don't forget to subscribe to Priv8 Podcast on your favorite streaming service.