Birzeit media researcher discusses fake news in Palestine in UNESCO digital communication conference

Saleh Masharqeh, a lecturer in media and the research and studies coordinator at Birzeit University’s Media Development Center has recently highlighted the proliferation, and effects, of fake news in Palestine in a recent paper presented at the Third International Conference on Tangible and Intangible Impact of Information and Communication in the Digital Age, held between June 17 and 18, 2021, in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. 

The conference, organized by the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO and UNESCO through its Information for All Programme, revolved around addressing the rapid and dramatic technological advances that have affected all regions of the world. Specifically, the conference called into question the role played by emergent technologies and tools, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, big data analytics and cloud computing, augmented and virtual reality, and the blockchain, in driving forward deep changes that have impacted communication in modern life.  

In particular, the conference focused on three main areas: the emergence of surveillance and the concurrent asymmetry of knowledge between individuals and organizations and/or states; the renewed discussion on human rights in the 21st century, especially the right to privacy, as more and more aspects of human life move online; and the changes to the social fabric of communities brought about by digital and technological advancements. 

In his research paper, based on studies carried out with 7amleh - The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, Masharqeh discussed the proliferation of fake news in the Palestinian community and its impact on the various political, legal, and economic realities therein. 

Fake news, argued Masharqeh, has become a real threat to the stability and well-functioning of societies that should be countered with local, regional, and international media-focused policies that support fact-checking organizations. Such institutions, he added, must be propped up to start functioning alongside traditional media agencies and organizations in the near future so that fake news and misinformation can be properly tackled and reduced. 

Masharqeh also pointed to education as one of the key tools in the fight against fake news, saying that primary, secondary, and tertiary educational institutions around the world can help students identify fake news by improving their critical thinking and digital skills. Laws, on the other hand, can be exploited by governments to silence critics and curb freedom of expression, he warned. 

To read the research paper, follow this link.