Advancing Media Literacy in Developing Countries

Funded by: USAID Country: Indonesia Date Range: 2018 - 2020 Project Lead: Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering Notre Dame Collaborators: Pulte Institute

At a time when communities around the world increasingly turn to digital sources for information, online and social media systems play a critical role in affecting attitudes and behavior. The problem is that social media channels are being manipulated by malicious groups to spread misinformation in low and middle income countries (LMIC) to exacerbate social divides and influence citizen involvement in democratic processes. The spread and adoption of misinformation through digital channels is especially problematic because many users of online and social media systems are not aware of how (mis)information is spread through these channels.

The goal of this USAID-funded program – Advancing Media Literacy for New Digital Arrivals in Developing Countries – is to improve media literacy in LMIC through a targeted digital media literacy campaign. In its pilot phase, the project has focused on Indonesia, specifically tracking the volume of social media disinformation around Indonesia’s 2019 national elections and ways to combat disinformation efforts.  During Quarter 2 of the project, researchers at the University of Notre Dame began tracking and collecting images related to the hashtags and phrases related to disinformation campaigns and the Indonesian national elections. During that period, Notre Dame captured about 250,000 images (130,352 distinct images) just from Twitter and Facebook that reference hashtags associated with disinformation campaigns. By Quarter 3, the number of images had increased to over two million, inclusive of image manipulation.  The project has trialed a number of different approaches via static media cards to determine corrective media content and has developed a course of explainer videos to combat media disinformation following the elections that could be applied going forward.  It is also establishing a process that can be transferred to other countries and contexts once this pilot in Indonesia is over.   

This two-year project is being led by Tim Weninger, Associate Professor within Notre Dame’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering, alongside the Pulte Institute.  The project consortium also consists of IREX, Moonshot CVE, and Geopoll.  

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