Fostering media and information literacy (MIL) among citizens is a preventive approach to tackling information pollution. Its effects are threefold. First, it supports citizens’ critical reasoning when navigating in their information environments, including those online. Second, it increases citizens’ knowledge about their digital, human and constitutional rights, as they pertain to information integrity. Third, it helps to enhance dialogue and revitalize social and democratic discourses.
MIL supports trust and hinders mistrust by equipping people and institutions to, for example:
MIL looks to nourish the ability to search, evaluate, create and share information and media content wisely. This includes online content that is often termed digital literacy; as well as knowledge of one’s rights; understanding how to combat disinformation and hate speech; grasping the ethical issues surrounding the access and use of information; and engaging with media and technology to promote equality, free expression, intercultural and interreligious dialogue, peace, democracy, good governance, etc.
MIL is an educational activity aimed at strengthening the public’s capabilities to identify and handle information pollution. MIL attempts to aid citizens to think critically, contribute to information environments wisely and counter all forms of disinformation and misinformation, while strengthening social and democratic engagement. Conducting MIL can include various exercises, working with education systems, civil society or with media and social media.
The activities include raising public awareness on the importance of diversity in opinions and views for healthy social development and democracy, and how the media and technological intermediaries contribute to this endeavour. In addition, activities should support the public in understanding and engaging with the media by promoting MIL at the grassroots level through community-led interventions, for instance in schools, libraries, community centres and families.
Digital literacy is a variant of media literacy and may be fostered separately or embedded within the mainstream curriculum. Beyond teaching about traditional media and democracy, digital literacy includes awareness-raising around the broader digital environment and how to deploy digital skills and knowledge to assess online content.
This activity can be implemented by various entities and organizations, government and non-government, alone or simultaneously. Within governments, the educational system is a prime partner for certain types of programmes. It is important to note, however, MIL should follow the principle of neutrality, without furthering a partisan position.
CSOs, community centres or libraries could deliver MIL activities. They may foster MIL through trainer methods and may include raising awareness among the public and/or their communities on the importance of diversity in opinions and views for a healthy democracy and the role of the media in this endeavour.
Training institutions, universities and/or secondary and primary schools may integrate MIL into their curricula, both formally—coordinated by the Ministry of Education—or non-formally. The integration of MIL for elections into secondary and primary school curricula could prove valuable since it can impact on the voting parents of the learners, and the learners themselves when they reach voting age. Some recommend starting with MIL and digital literacy programmes from an early age, given that they are a growing part of any approach to skills development. Furthermore, it would be beneficial to work with voter education bodies, including the EMB, to integrate relevant MIL dimensions into civic education and democracy education programmes.
This tool suggests an evidenced-based approach to MIL for critical thinking and social and democratic engagement. A key starting point is to link research to strategy formulation and implementation at the national and instructional levels. Research should include a review of literature about findings on how MIL enables social and democratic discourses, what the focus areas should be and whether gaps exist. In addition, community-based research needs to be carried out during and after the implementation of MIL interventions to inform and strengthen future actions.
Media- and information-literacy-related activities targeting youth audiences may be implemented through education systems, primarily by formal educational institutions, but increasingly also by youth organizations. These may be embedded with broader activities that explore the various online harms that are concerning to youth. Where activities are directed at youth, they can have a more lasting impact—and tackle the various harms that may target youth—potentially considering concerns beyond electoral.
Activities could include:
Actors involved in MIL or digital literacy initiatives—election-related or broader—may benefit from coordinating with ongoing civic and voter education initiatives and those actors involved in its implementation. These partnerships can consider lessons learned, complement activities or work towards efficient use of resources. As an activity that aims to engage with broad swathes of the population, having various actors involved is a necessity.
The issues posed by information pollution can be partly addressed by MIL efforts. However, strengthening the critical thinking skills and capacities of citizens to debunk disinformation requires a holistic and long-term approach. Articulating and implementing national MIL policies, frameworks and strategies is necessary. Such an approach requires sustainable financing, monitoring and evaluation.
Moreover, continuing to provide technical assistance to institutions integrating MIL policies, frameworks and strategies, as well as mentoring to leaders within youth, women and community organizations working to integrate MIL into their operations is key to support effective implementation.
Broadly, it is difficult to truly advise upon costings without a clear vision of a particular project. This is particularly the case for this area of work, as this is an umbrella for a broad family of concerns.
Frameworks are a necessary starting point to define what constitutes digital literacy in a particular context. The extent to which MIL and digital literacy can be effectively scaled further depends on the existence of policies, frameworks or strategies, as programmes may otherwise remain scattered or incoherent. For MIL and digital literacy programmes to be effective, it requires efforts from a range of actors because specific project activities aimed at increasing media literacy are not sufficient. Moreover, assessing the impact of MIL and digital literacy programmes remains challenging if not coherently implemented.
More practically, barriers to programming may include the lack of skilled teachers and trainers, and for digital literacy particularly, the digital divide including the lack of ICT infrastructure and low connectivity.
Assessing the impact of MIL activities can be challenging. This is particularly the case if trying to understand the long-term impacts upon user behaviour. Also, for youth audiences, the electoral ramifications are hard to discern. Establishing long-term structures for evaluation may help; however, this is also difficult to maintain.
UNESCO Online Multimedia MIL Teaching Resource Tool
This website provides access to an international, multimedia and multi-language MIL teaching resources tool for educators, researchers and individuals. The tool contains interactive and intercultural teaching resources proposed for use in formal and non-formal educational settings. The resources can be shared, adapted, used and re-uploaded by users at will. They are organized around the model Media and Information Literacy Curriculum published by UNESCO, which is available in nine languages. Registered users are invited to submit resources and opinions relevant to the different modules and units of the curriculum.
This is an important resource drawing on present trends toward the convergence of radio, television, Internet, newspapers, books, digital archives and libraries into one platform—thereby, for the first time, presenting MIL in a holistic manner. This publication is divided into two parts. Part 1 provides the MIL Curriculum and Competency Framework, which gives an overview of the curriculum rationale, design and main themes. Part 2 includes the detailed core and non-core modules of the curriculum. The MIL Curriculum for Teachers is available in Arabic, French, Russian and Spanish and will soon be available in other languages.
MIL CLICKS is a way for people to acquire MIL competencies in their normal day-to-day use of the Internet and social media. It is also a way to engage in peer education in an atmosphere of browsing, playing, connecting, sharing and socializing.
GAPMIL is a groundbreaking effort to promote international cooperation to ensure that all citizens have access to media and information competencies. GAPMIL members are organizations and individuals working in the field of MIL. With its network composed of over 400 member organizations from all regions of the world, GAPMIL can help replicate MIL actions in the target countries.
The European Commission brings media literacy stakeholders together in a media literacy expert group. This group meets annually to identify, document and extend good practices in the field of media literacy; facilitate networking between different stakeholders; and explore ways to coordinate EU policies, support programmes and media literacy initiatives.
The European Commission’s Digital Competence Framework for Citizens
The Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp) provides a common understanding of what digital competence is. It also provides a basis for framing digital skills policy.
Digital literacy is increasingly recognized as a central element of the skills a child requires for school, work and life. This website explores what exactly it means for children to be digitally literate.
FAKEY is a media literacy initiative that aims to foster media literacy and critical thinking through participation in a game that teaches players to support a healthy social media experience by promoting information from reliable sources and not from low credibility sources.
BBC has developed IReporter, an interactive game that allows the players to put themselves in the shoes of a reporter with the challenge of not falling prey to disinformation.
While young people across Africa are involved in media activities and production, there is no formal process that involves teaching and training them on the effect and impact of media and information on their lives that MIL seeks to address. To create an environment whereby MIL can flourish in Africa, the Youth Media & Communication Initiative (YMCI); British Council, Nigeria; and the National Film & Video Censors Board (NFVCB)—three organizations whose activities focus on empowering children and youth and advancing the benefits of information and communication technologies—came together to organize the first Africa Media Literacy Conference in July 2008 in Abuja, Nigeria. The concept of an African Centre for Media and Information Literacy took root from this conference.
The Media and Digital Literacy Academy (MDLAB) aims to develop media and digital literacy education in the region by providing the needed training, curricular material and resources, and by motivating faculty, students, journalists and activists to transfer what they learned to their institutions. So far, MDLAB has succeeded in introducing media and digital literacy to 40 Arab universities and schools in 12 Arab countries. The academy works on developing media and digital literacy curriculum that comprises modules and training manuals including course plans, multimedia and case studies
Lie Detectors deploys journalists and selected media experts to teach classroom sessions, recruiting them primarily from alumni circles of recognized journalism schools. The project operates in Austria, Belgium and Germany, with more countries to follow.
With the financial support of the European Union and in collaboration with partners, UNESCO is implementing the Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey project. The project has three components: (1) ethical audits and good governance seminars with media organizations; (2) support for press councils, including capacity-building on labour rights; and (3) empowering citizens and audiences with MIL. The objective of the third component is to build trust in media by improving citizens’ critical competencies and participation in media. Two key approaches are to strengthen partnerships between media and civil society and to support media self-regulatory bodies in the promotion of MIL.
Global Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Week, commemorated annually, is a major occasion for stakeholders to review and celebrate the progress achieved towards ‘MIL for All’. It is a cap and aggregator for MIL-related events and actions around the world leading up to this Week. Together with its Feature Events (International MIL and Intercultural Dialogue Conference and Youth Agenda Forum), Global MIL Week calls for local events around the world to promote MIL connections across disciplines and professions.
UNESCO and partners working with youth organizations spearheaded the first Global MIL Youth Hackathon. Youth from different regions collaborated to design MIL-related solutions to tackle five hackathon challenges: Children and Youth in Media, Disinformation, Sustainable Development Goals, Immigrants in Media, and Dialogue. The process included prototyping, validation, pitching, refinement, evaluation, selection and implementation. Youth-led initiatives ranged from grassroots community actions (Family 2.0 project) and peer-to-peer capacity-building (Social Media Combatting Fake News project), to innovative research (Small Refugee project), media production and awareness-raising actions (Be Kid App project), and the promotion of cyber-peace and the rights of marginalized groups through MIL (Virtual MIL Organization for Cyber Peace [VMILCOP]). They will address the need for MIL development in their respective countries and/or regions, and will therefore eventually impact on their society and potentially influence the national development agenda. The projects were designed with an aim to be replicated in other countries and in their regions. Ownership by the concerned youth organizations involved is ensured, as they are granted the role managing the projects from conceptualization to implementation, in consultation with and under the guidance of UNESCO and other partners.
The Australian Electoral Commission, Electoral Communication
Electoral communication is an important part of the election process, enabling voters to appropriately inform themselves ahead of casting their vote. In Australia, The Electoral Commission developed a reputation management strategy with a focus on education rather than regulation. Their defending democracy unit was involved in the development of a Stop and Consider Campaign. Furthermore, AEC TV was set up as a YouTube channel with the aim of protecting the integrity of the voting process.
The Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE), a Bulawayo-based innovation hub in Zimbabwe, collaborated with Code for Africa and PesaCheck—partners of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ)—to conduct a series of trainings on spotting and debunking misinformation online. The trainings were facilitated by Jigsaw and Google as part of the Protect Your Election project to empower journalists, technologists, election candidates and civil society to stay safe online during elections.
UNDP NoTeCreasTodo Campaign in Chile
The ‘NoTeCreasTodo’ campaign seeks to advance in the construction of communication and awareness products to combat information contamination and thereby address the challenges involved in supporting the country in terms of democratic strengthening in the context of a social and economic crisis aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and in the electoral processes.
GMC is a legally registered organization whose mission and vision is to empower women in various sectors of society to engage with the media. As a gender and media advocacy and representative organization formed in 1985, GMC works to promote not only the rights of women and girls in media but also rights of women and girls in accessing media both as a source of information as well as platforms for free expression. In addition, GMC supports them to attain the relevant gender skills to champion advocacy on issues affecting their use of media as a tool for socioeconomic development and empowerment.
Shehri Pakistan is a social initiative that seeks to provide accessible civic education and legal literacy to Pakistani citizens. Moreover, it conducts monitoring and research work on hate speech/disinformation with focus on religious minorities. Their #SochoDigital campaign is designed to educate and empower internet users of all age groups so that they can continue to build community and connections on the internet while maintaining their privacy and enabling a safe internet experience for everyone. They further produce short video’s and films to inform on the dangers of the internet and how false information is shared.
Bolo Bhi is a Pakistan based civil society organization working on advocacy, policy and research in the areas of digital rights and civic responsibility. This encompasses the right to information, free speech, and privacy online, so that the internet can be realized as a free and representative space for civic and political engagement for all segments of society, including marginalized communities and genders. Bolo Bhi believes that an informed citizenry with the knowledge, skills, tools and disposition towards civic engagement is integral for effective government transparency and accountability.