How can young people use media and information literacy (MIL) to strengthen their capacities in active and purposeful use of information in the media as well as countering disinformation?
To probe this, a group of SEENPM members organised a series of hackathons for the youth in Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia within ‘Media for Citizens – Citizens for Media’, a regional project financially supported by the European Union and implemented by a group of media development organizations in the Western Balkans.
Hackathons #YouthForMILSolutions took place between 26 and 28 April 2021 with the aim to find ideas and solutions for MIL issues and problems. The hackathons were designed as exchange of ideas and a competition for youth in using MIL knowledge as a tool for designing initiatives and innovative solutions for effective recognizing and purposeful use of information in the media and countering disinformation and other types of false information.
In each country, after a public call for participation, 15 young people were selected and organised into three working groups. Based on the ideas submitted to the public call, the organisers defined three thematic areas within which the participants worked during the hackathons. Those included group activities in exchange of experiences and dialogue among participants and sessions with mentors and experts.
The hackathon #YouthForMILSolutions was held in Podgorica, organized by the Montenegro Media Institute, with participation of 15 high school students from three schools in Montenegro.
The winning team created an animated manual “Guideline for the use of virtual reality”, which invites their peers to be careful when using social networks and have greater responsibility in creating and sharing content. Using visuals, they pointed to the problem of violence on the Internet, misinformation, use of personal data, cyberbullying, flaming.
The other two teams shared their views on the influence of the media on the formation of attitudes through a TV show, a website and a game. They also looked at the “hunger” of young people for popularity on social networks.
Online hackathon #YouthForMILSolutions, organised by the Novi Sad School of Journalism, gathered 11 young people. Participants nominated topics for the thematic scope of the event and three were selected: media literacy and education; fake news and conspiracy theories; and social networks: young people and TikTok.
During three days participants worked in three teams, and each team had a mentor – expert in the field the group tackled. The teams combined different methods – research, brainstorming, and creative exercises. Solutions created during the hackathon were aimed for different target groups – pupils, general public and parents of TikTok users. Proposed solutions included educational/creative workshops and MIL contest for pupils, platforms for COVID 19 conspiracy theories’ deconstruction, educational activities for parents of TikTok users.
While jury members praised all proposed solutions, one was highlighted in particular. The winner of the hackathon was the team which offered a solution for tackling COVID 19 conspiracy theories. The solution informs citizens of the value and social importance of vaccination through deconstruction of conspiracy theories in the mainstream and social media.
“Don’t Troll” was the winning idea of the hackathon organized by the Macedonian Institute for Media (MIM) and attended by young people from several cities in North Macedonia. They were organised in three teams. The winning solution addresses the problem of “trolling” on social media, as one of the most common forms of cyberbullying. It offers the creation and promotion of “troll-free” social media environments by establishing a code of conduct that will prevent “trolling”. The aim is to establish a form of self-regulated social media communities by adopting a code of conduct, so such groups could be labelled as “troll-free” environments, safe for users.
The other two teams offered exceptionally interesting and quality solutions on two topics. The idea “Junior Detective” offers a set of solutions for educating primary school students about the basic principles of media literacy through educative games, talking with their favourite social media influencers, and short interactive lectures about the world of media and media reality. “Choose your news” is a solution that proposes a mobile and desktop application which will offer MIL education and a set of tools for informing young people about the possibilities of social inclusion.
The hackathon #YouthForMILSolutions, organized by the Albanian Media Institute (AMI), gathered 15 participants: high school and university students, and some young reporters, as well.
One group focused on firsthand monitoring of the electoral campaign expenses in social media and preparing guidelines and recommendations for young reporters to follow the issue. Using a set of applications, including Crowdtangle and Buzzsumo, the group carried out an analysis of existing pages on Facebook that aimed both to improve the positive image of one party and degrade the opponent. After carrying out monitoring and examining the transparency features of these pages, the group drew a set of recommendations for young reporters in this respect, such as the use of relevant application and tools, the respective mechanisms that Facebook has in this regard, and the criteria that all journalists must examine on a Facebook page to determine if there is a disinformation effort.
The second group focused on media literacy and digital skills of young reporters, with a particular focus on civic journalism and activism. They were trained and discussed the applications, tools, sources, and methods of reporting on issues of public relevance in a way that would reach young people more, boosting activism in the Albanian society. They focused especially on the ways of using infographics, maps, animated posters, and other multimedia aids and instruments to report on social media to young people. Using highly relevant topics, such as the situation with the pandemic and the endangered environment, they built a portfolio of examples as a potential way that engaged young citizens could use to raise awareness about their problems and issues in an informed and innovative way that traditional and online media do not often deploy.
The third group, consisting of high school students and young university students, worked to provide recommendations for teachers on how to link teaching and MIL in order to make MIL an interesting and relevant subject for the students. They focused on answering the question of what makes the youth interested in the media, and worked on providing recommendations on how to make media literacy interesting for the youth, especially high school students. Their idea focused on engaging students in creating their own online school newspaper, as an opportunity for students to experience firsthand the “reporter” experience and some of its facets. Parallel to the experience, the students also designed a mini-curricula that teachers or external experts and guests could follow to train young reporters, including basic journalism principles, fact-checking practice, newsworthiness criteria, interviewing, and ethical principles. The students also engaged in designing the format of the newspaper and specific content that would be attractive and useful to their peers, as well as suggested specific roles within the newsroom and how the routine of such practice would work.
The regional program “Media for Citizens – Citizens for Media: Strengthening the Capacity of NGOs for the Development of Media and Information Literacy in the Western Balkans” is implemented with the support of the European Union by partner organizations Mediacentar Sarajevo, Albanian Media Institute,Macedonian Institute for Media, Montenegrin Media Institute, Novi Sad School of Journalism, Peace Institute, SEENPM.