SOMA media literacy workshop

The SOMA Media Literacy Workshop was held at the LUISS University, Rome, and led by Luiss Data Lab and T6 Ecosystems on September 9, 2019.

In a context in which phenomena such as disinformation, transparency and echo chambers (Jamieson & Cappella, 2008, Sunstein, 2009) take on an increasingly significant role in the Habermasian public sphere, Media Literacy activities play a widespread role because they aim to spread technical, cognitive, social, civic and creative skills in order to facilitate the development of critical thinking and to participate in the economic, social and cultural aspects of society by making informed decisions.

The objective of the Media Literacy Workshop organized by Luiss Data Lab and T6 Ecosystem was to accompany the students in a process of acquiring awareness of the various strategies for identifying and responding to fake news.

66 students participated, divided into two classes, 83% of which were freshmen or enrolled in an undergraduate program in law, management and computer science, political science, etc. The remaining 17% were high school students.

The workshop began with a remarkable introduction to the objectives of the SOMA project held by Giuseppe Abbamonte, Director of Media Policy Directorate, DG Connect, European Commission; Alberto Rabbachin, Scientific Project Officer, DG Connect, European Commission and Gianni Riotta, Director of Luiss Data Lab and member of the High Level Group on fake news and online disinformation appointed by the European Commission.

Luiss Data Lab team, represented by Alice Andreuzzi, Stefano Guarino, Luca Tacchetti and Noemi Trino, started the media literacy session explaining in depth the concept of Social Data Intelligence for fake news detection. It means developing software and algorithms in order to analyze how information flows in social media. Students were shown data collection tools such as Google trend and Twitter Archiver as well as methods and techniques for their analysis. A focus was dedicated to the recognition of social bots, thinking about the criteria for their identification and searching for them in the data collected. The experience ended with an interactive exercise in which students gathered data on topics subject to disinformation such as the vaccines; climate change; Obama and the United States; the Italian Government etc. During the workshop the SOMA toolbox was introduced, the set of tools that Luiss Data Lab is developing for the SOMA project in order to offer journalists and users useful tools to identify, isolate, classify and assess the fake news polarization in social information flows.

Then, T6 Ecosystems addressed the issue of current solutions developed to assess the quality of information and manly what is the transparency index providing some examples on how they have been developed and implemented.. The session was coordinated by Simona De Rosa from T6 Ecosystem and its aim was:

  • Delivery to the audience a theoretical insight on source transparency index;
  • Provide an overview about already in use source transparency index;
  • Provide concrete suggestions on how to judge an online news outlet.

To achieve this aim a presentation has been delivered explaining what are the STI and how they work. After that, participants has been divided in groups and provided with examples of  online news to discuss together how relevant are the indicators in the understanding of news credibility.

In particular, different articles containing opinions, fact checked data and fake news have been distributed to the participants. Each group has replied to some questions to assess what kind of news they were reading identifying the most relevant information to judge an article. Accordingly, they have been asked to work in groups to validate the indicators selected by SOMA providing it a value and to suggest new indicators to add to the list. The session supported the students in thinking how to recognize the news. Moreover, the session provided relevant insights on which indicators could be really helpful in distinguishing what is a trustable article and what is not.

Overall, the media literacy workshop had a positive response from the students who collected skills in different areas:

  • select, collect and analyze data sets;
  • use tools for analyzing and recognizing social bots;
  • get a theoretical and practical insight on source transparency index;
  • discover what the EU Commission is doing in order to fight against misinformation.