Research Project:

The Future of Digital Citizenship in Qatar:a Socio-Technical Framework

(SP#2:Critical Digital Literacy)

Inspired by Finland’s example, this sub-project aims to promote critical digital literacy in Qatar. This project is funded by QNRF as a part of a ~4 M USD fund.

Research Description

Promoting digital literacy and critical thinking is arguably the best way to tackle “fake news” and disinformation online. It has been proven to work in Finland, where five years after the introduction of such programs, the country has declared victory in the fight against the “fake news” (Mackintosh, 2019). Inspired by Finland’s example, this sub-project aims at promoting critical digital literacy in Qatar. 

We plan to achieve this through a general media literacy platform that would teach citizens and residents of Qatar how to recognize “fake news” and propaganda techniques (Nakov et al, 2021). The platform will have lessons and exploration capabilities. It will feature tools to analyze news, social media posts, or any custom text, in Arabic or English, and it would make explicit the propaganda/persuasion techniques, the biases, and the framing of the discussed issues, etc. (Alam et al, 2021; Baly et al., 2020; Da San Martino et al., 2019; Zhang et al., 2019). The tool will look for persuasion techniques such as appeal to emotions (e.g., fear, prejudices, smears, etc.) as well as logical fallacies (e.g., black & white fallacies, bandwagon, etc.). By interacting with the platform, users will become aware of the ways they can be manipulated by “fake news”, and thus they would be less likely to act based on it, and also less likely to share it further, which is critical for limiting the potential impact of organized disinformation campaigns online.

We will further study the role of critical digital literacy on people’s resilience to online manipulation and influence whether legitimate, e.g., in e-commerce, or malicious, e.g., in social engineering and phishing. This literacy will also cover understanding the influence of the algorithms and the designs used in digital media, i.e., we will go beyond the literacy of how to recognize threats and how to respond to them, to understanding the underlying mechanics of influence and deception online.