Advancing Media Literacy in Developing Countries

Funded by: USAIDCountry: IndonesiaDate Range: 2018-2020Project Lead: Dept. of Computer Science & EngineeringNotre Dame Collaborators: Pulte InstituteContact: Tom Purekal

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, especially around democratic processes.

In response, the "Advancing Media Literacy in Developing Countries" project bolsters democratic principles and social stability by empowering the next generation of online and social media users to navigate complex information environments and make informed choices.

Focusing on the manipulation of social media channels by malicious actors to spread misinformation and disrupt democratic processes, this initiative targets Indonesia, where historical use of traditional media platforms by political parties and elites has led to severe consequences, such as discrediting opposition parties and candidates.

In Indonesia, as in many other countries, there is significant concern about the manipulation of social media platforms to spread misinformation. This misinformation exacerbates social divides and influences citizen involvement in the democratic process.

The spread of misinformation on social media in Indonesia has been linked to various issues, including:

Ethnic and religious tensions: Indonesia is a diverse country with multiple ethnicities and religions. Misinformation spread through social media can exploit these differences, leading to tensions and conflicts between different groups.

Political polarization: Social media can be used to polarize political discourse by spreading false information about political opponents or issues. This polarization can deepen societal divisions and hinder constructive dialogue.

Election interference: Misinformation campaigns on social media can influence public opinion and voter behavior during elections. This interference undermines the integrity of the democratic process and can lead to outcomes that do not accurately reflect the will of the people.

Lack of media literacy: Many Indonesians may lack the necessary skills to critically evaluate information they encounter on social media. This makes them more susceptible to believing and sharing misinformation, further amplifying its impact.

The Advancing Media Literacy in Developing Countries project empowers individuals with the necessary skills to make well-informed decisions pertaining to governance. More specifically, the project targets the reduction of Indonesian citizens' reliance on unreliable media outlets.


This project has been extended and is 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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