During September 20-22, 2023, Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, hosted the "Unveil the Truth: Eastern Partnership Fact-Checkers Conference." This international event, organized by the Media Development Foundation (MDF) and Deutsche Welle Akademie (DWA) in collaboration with the USAID Unity Through Diversity Program executed by the United Nations Association of Georgia (UNA Georgia), marked a significant milestone by bringing together prominent fact-checking organizations, renowned experts, and key stakeholders from various countries to shed light on combating harmful information and promoting media literacy in the region.
The conference sought to examine the complex interplay of mis/disinformation dynamics within the EaP region, examining overarching trends while delving deep into the unique local contexts of individual countries. It drew perspectives from a diverse range of nations, including Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova, Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania, while also engaging with insights from major online platforms and influential international networks.
META's Approach to Misinformation and Ethical Standards in European Fact-Checking
Day one kicked off with a high-profile panel featuring representatives from the social media industry and international fact-checking community networks. Among the distinguished speakers was Sophie Eyears, from Integrity Partnerships, Europe, from META. Eyears discussed META's policy to combat harmful information on social media platforms and the importance of fact-checking in today's digital landscape. Joining her was Dr. Vincent Couronne, treasurer and the elected member of the governance body of the European Fact-Checking Standards Network (EFCSN). The speakers dived deep into the complexities of content moderation on social media platforms, exploring the growing importance of fact-checking organizations and identifying areas for further development.
Book Presentation with Jessikka Aro: Putin's Trolls Unveiled
Another highlight of the event featured Jessikka Aro, an award-winning investigative reporter from Finland, unveiling the Georgian translation of her book, "Putin's Trolls: On the Frontlines of Russia's Information War Against the World." Aro shared her personal experiences and insights from researching Kremlin-backed disinformation operations. In addition, conference attendees gained a firsthand understanding of the daily challenges she faced, both online and offline, as she confronted the intense harassment and smear campaigns targeting her.
Advancing Media Literacy
The conference focused on the immediate need to advocate for the importance of media literacy. Experts from the US (MediaWise’s Vanya Tsvetkova), Georgia, Armenia, Latvia, and Ukraine have shared innovative strategies for researching, advocating, and promoting media literacy across different age groups. In addition to highlighting successful experiences and outlining key priorities, the panel also showcased the variety of innovative resources developed by the speakers’ respective organizations aimed at fostering societal resilience through media literacy.
Tackling Gendered Disinformation and Online Violence against Journalists
A critical panel discussion was aimed at exposing the gendered nature of disinformation and the alarming rise of online violence against journalists. With participation from experts and journalists from Georgia and Ukraine, this session delved into the complex intersections of gender and misinformation. The panel also incorporated the findings of the "Gendered Disinformation" report, carried out by the Media Development Foundation within the framework of the project "Gender Disinformation and Inclusive Media Reporting,” funded by the International Media Support (IMS). The findings and implications of the study were discussed by MDF’s executive director, Tamar Kintsurashvili.
Empowering Through Workshops
Throughout the conference, attendees had the opportunity to partake in hands-on workshops led by local and international experts. These workshops covered a diverse array of topics, including Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) methodologies, photo forensics, social media research, geolocation, and much more. These practical sessions were aimed at equipping participants with crucial tools and skills to navigate more freely and efficiently in the new media ecosystem.
The "Unveil the Truth: Eastern Partnership Fact-Checkers Conference" aimed to make a step forward in the efforts of building institutional and societal resilience against mis/disinformation. The conference served as a collective commitment to truth, ethical standards, and the advancement of media literacy in the digital age.