Interrogating Media Literacy as a Response to Misinformation: Notes from MozFest 2022
13 April 2022
Every year, the Mozilla Festival – informally called MozFest – brings together digital activists working towards a healthier and fairer internet. As part of the 2022 MozFest, IFLA hosted an interactive workshop examining what recent library experiences with media literacy learning can tell us about effective ways to tackle misinformation.
Over the past few years, the policy dialogue around mis- and dis-information has continued to evolve. Emerging evidence helps scrutinise the human rights impacts of misleading (or outright false) information in a hyperconnected digital environment, as well as of the ways it has been tackled so far, the cognitive processes and motivations shaping users’ informational habits, the effectiveness of different intervention approaches, and more.
Throughout these discussions, one of the consistent themes has been the role of media literacy as an important part of the solution. An IFLA-led MozFest session has looked at some of the recent learnings and ideas emerging from the library sector as it works to implement effective and inclusive media literacy programming.
Four guest experts – Prof. Jesus Lau and Prof. Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe (UNESCO MIL Alliance), Dr. Anu Ojaranta (Regional State Administrative Agency, Southwest Finland) and Mr. Oskar Laurin (National Library of Sweden) – supported the open discussion by drawing on several recent initiatives:
- The media literacy elements of Digitalt Först, a multi-year digital skills initiative in which the National Library of Sweden took on a leading role;
- The extensive integration of libraries in Finland into the national media literacy strategy;
- The recent work of the UNESCO Media Literacy Alliance, including the new Second Edition of the Model Media and Information Literacy Curriculum for Educators and Learners.
During the session, participants – ranging from tech workers to policy-makers, educators and researchers, and, of course, librarians – took part in a scenario-building exercise. Its goal was to workshop and talk through possible approaches to some of the common goals and challenges of media literacy learning.
Below are some of the ideas and suggestions participants raised during the session:
- Trust was one of the recurring themes, highlighted as a key factor in ensuring that media literacy learning opportunities are effective and reach the desired audiences. This can manifest in different ways – for example, libraries as trusted (perceived as more neutral and knowledge-oriented) institutions to provide ML training, the role of trust in communicating with users who may be more defensive about their information habits, or involving trusted community spokespersons and representatives and/or family members to help engage harder-to-reach audiences.
- What does it mean for a media literacy training approach to be user- or community-focused? Naturally, excellent templates and resources for ML learning are available today – but it can also be of immense value to use inquiry-based approaches and, crucially, to put aside assumptions and pre-conceptions (e.g. about a particular target group) when designing an intervention. It can also mean anchoring a media literacy training in the experiences, perspectives and frames of reference of the target user group or community. Overall, the participants highlighted different learning approaches which put uses at the centre – from peer feedback and engagement to gamified or interactive ‘breakout room’-based session designs.
- Other ways to engage harder-to-reach users can include, for instance, linking and embedding media literacy initiatives within existing, locally popular library services. As evidence shows, not every user comes to a library looking for help with finding information or fact-checking – which is why leveraging existing library channels and services can bring in people who would not have initially thought of turning to their library for media literacy learning opportunities.
- Finally, intentionally and proactively building partnerships remains a key strategy for effective media literacy delivery – and can help break up silos and utilise the various strengths of different stakeholders. The workshop participants began mapping some of these possible collaborations on the basis of their own experiences – not only between libraries and well-established media literacy stakeholders such as journalists, local media and formal educational institutions, but also with such actors as interest organisations and target group communities – senior organisations, community groups, the scouts, and others.
A key goal of MozFest is to continue building on its dialogues and exchanges, to amplify the impacts beyond the annual event itself. Naturally, we look forward to continuing the conversations and peer learning on what makes for effective and impactful library-based media literacy interventions!