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Countering Disinformation among Vulnerable Populations in Central Europe

Enhancing the resilience of Central Europe’s seniors to disinformation – through empowerment, participation, and media education

Project Summary: 

The coronavirus crisis has dramatically demonstrated the importance of media literacy and digital literacy, key components of civil societies, and key tools for combatting dangerous disinformation. The pandemic also has underscored the fact that senior citizens, an already vulnerable segment of the population, tend to lack these skills. We seek to change that by developing a comprehensive and durable solution. Building on progress to date, as well as the already robust experience of our consortium, we will identify and gather existing best practices and initiatives focusing on the education of senior citizens in digital and media literacy, with the goal of establishing a community of actors and vibrant repository of resources.

In the previous pilot phases, all project partners implemented the same set of activities; this was purposely done to test how different actors would engage in such projects in different country contexts. In the most recent project phase, currently still ongoing, each consortium member led and guaranteed a specific set of activities, which were tested in the partner countries and compiled into a comprehensive approach and guidelines. This has ensured that outputs were relevant, scalable, sustainable, and adaptable across the linguistic, state, and cultural borders throughout Europe. As noted above, Slovak partner MEMO98 led monitoring activities, the Center for Independent Journalism in Hungary led intergenerational learning, Transitions experimented with online tools and learning methods, and the Polish partner Association of

Creative Initiatives “ę” conducted peer-to-peer learning and participatory design process. All this has been combined to achieve the biggest possible impact by our consortium in the V4 countries and beyond. We have included innovative pedagogical methods, developed the potential for peer education and intergenerational learning. We have also piloted a fact-checking initiative where seniors were not just recipients of debunks, but also active actors – fact-checkers themselves. Activities were supported by the design and deployment of a media monitoring and social media monitoring system to provide insights into the senior citizen information ecosystem as well as identify and catalogue techniques used by malicious

actors to create, distribute, and amplify online disinformation, especially among the senior population. For the proposed project, we want to use this experience to innovate again and scale this across the region. The same we propose for the online learning element of the project; we have tested it and will scale up across the region.

Project Activities: 

In 2022-24, Transitions and its partners in Poland, Slovakia and Hungary will utilize renewed NED support to:

• Convene 200 half-day educational events (50 per country) for at least 2,000 seniors. Each event will include a mix of presentations, lectures with guest experts, hands-on workshops, role-playing educational games, and practical training sessions, both online and offline. The events will cover a wide range of topics, including fact-checking, debunking disinformation, state-sponsored propaganda, the impact of social media on individuals and society and quality journalism, among others.

• Conduct two, one-day Training of Trainers events in each participating country for 10 participants each. The participants will be recruited from diverse backgrounds: organizers of senior clubs, journalism students, fact-checkers, librarians, influencers, and other community educators. During the course, participants will receive intensive training and mentoring, which will enable them to conduct senior media education activities on their own.

• Host in the Czech Republic and Poland 32 verification workshops (8 events per year in each one of the countries, each for 10 participants). The workshops will be sessions of 90 to 120 minutes, with practical training on factchecking and verification tactics and tools.

• Create and pilot innovative learning approaches to senior news literacy (such as online learning and design of senior-friendly online platforms and tools). The effort will engage actors not traditionally involved in news literacy education, such as journalists and fact-checkers. Transitions will also pilot a strategy of participatory fact-checking by engaging

seniors not only as students but as fact-checkers themselves. TOL will draft a methodology describing the specifics of using the online space and tools to increase the news literacy of senior citizens; guidelines will be developed. TOL will use the methodology to design an educational module and training-of-trainers program for instructors teaching news literacy online.

• Develop a set of educational resources. Each partner will develop materials in one of the media literacy areas in which it specializes. The set will include visual representation (i.e. posters, leaflets) of some of the most relevant information from the field; case studies exposing disinformation mechanisms and motives; their potential negative impact on an individual and society; local examples collected by project participants; instructional videos; basics of internet security and experiences and suggestions of the course participants. This toolkit will be made available online for course participants and other members of the public in an easy-to-share and print format from the websites of Transitions and its implementing partners. The resources will be produced in the main languages of the target countries, utilized for the workshops described below, and promoted among senior citizens and organizations working with them. Some local resources also will be translated into English and published on TOL’s website.

• Based on the MEMO98 pilot program, further develop a media monitoring system to better understand the seniors’ media ecosystem. The monitoring will enable project partners to identify and catalogue the techniques common to malicious actors for creating, disseminating, and amplifying disinformation online, including the newest forms of communication technology manipulation.

• Create a newsletter and an account in social media to start building the community, exchange good practices, and share lessons learned.

• At the end of the project implementation, organize an online event for 50 interested people to share lessons learned.

June 12, 2024
Join our Media Literacy team for our online event “Inclusive Media Literacy: Engaging the Elderly Across the Visegrad Region” for more information visit our website.

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