News media, platform politics, and changing information “order” in Europe

Dissemination conference of the Jean Monnet Network on European Media and Platform Policies (EuromediApp)

Organized in collaboration with the DIGIRES initiative and the Euromedia Research Group network

12-13 May 2022
Venue: V.Putvinskio st. 23, Room 311, Kaunas, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania

Registration is required and open until May 10, 2022

Context

In Europe, there has been a long and steady talk about the necessity of digital media platform regulation. The main symptoms of the so called ‘information disruptions’ identified (such as the influx of disinformation and strategic manipulations, propaganda and fake narratives, hate speech and instigations to conflict, the intensification of populist claims), different countries have taken varying policy positions against these phenomena. In certain cases, for example, in relation to effects of platformization on ‘information disorders’, there is evidence of stricter attempts to impose legal measures in some countries, as well as initiating well-orchestrated European Union policy moves (The code of practice on disinformation, The European democracy action plan, etc.).

The second decade of the 21st century has revealed and brought to surface not only myriad of social and digitally amplified risks. Many of those risks have been evident for years – such as social and economic inequalities, climate change, environmental pollution, migration crisis, security and wellbeing, and populist politics. But the 2020s is marked by humanitarian risks and crises, even tragedies of the scale not envissioned before. First, it was the global pandemic, in Spring 2022 already on its 3rd year. And in February 2022 – the Russian invasion and war in Ukraine. In the background, the ever deepening environmental crisis.

These manifold crises and even catastrophes have opened not only chasms in human destinies and histories of entire European nations (as is the case of Ukraine). These have re-opened the necessity to review the role of information as an actor and key component also in hybrid warfare operations.

Until recently, the significance of disinformation threats and dangers in Europe has been graded in relation to potential harms (such as government censorship, diminishing free speech, etc.), but the current context of international emergency – such as the Russian invasion in Ukraine and humanitarian crisis – requires immediate defensive moves and concrete acts against information disruptions. One example of such moves are sanctions against harmful content providers and distributors.

The current moment seems to be a decisive momentum to recalibrate the standing and reputations of all stakeholders – news media, platforms, and governments – in the face of the arising new information ‘order’ in Europe. Evident transformations are being seen already. News media and journalists mobilize their efforts towards fact-checking and the provision of verified sources of information. European governments make moves towards imposing stricter measures towards national security and information defense operations. Global tech companies such as Google, Meta, Twitter and others make evident moves in their (political and ideological and also moral) standing by restricting access and banning propagandist and harmful content and information operations.

All these are obvious signs of the arising new communications and information ‘order’ in Europe with deterrence and resilience as the most vital strategies. Whereas ‘deterrence’ is about the concrete steps against propaganda, interventions in political processes such as elections, industrial espionage, cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns, ‘resilience’ is about interventions in public digital literacies and media education.

  • What are the attributes of the arising new information ‘order’? What are the political, legal, technological and social challenges that this new ‘order’ instigates to media freedom?
  • What should be the roles and relations of the Governments, companies, and civil society organisations in this new information ‘order’?
  • How digital media and platform policies will change as a result of the war? Which will be the core guiding principles shaping digital media policies? What will be the division of labour and responsibilities between the different forms of legal, self and co-regulation?
  • How to act and respond to disruptions – what are the most effective moves against harmful content in this critical period?

The conference ‘News media, platform politics, and changing information “order” in Europe’ has three specific slots focusing on responses from (a) government, (b) platforms, and (c) media actors, where each of these groups call for deeper insights into social, political, and technological characteristics of the new era defined here as changing information ‘order’.

Program

Disinformation and propaganda in the times of high-choice and rich media environment: aims, methods, successes, countermeasures

Thu 12 May at 16-18:30 EET

Moderators: Hannu Nieminen and TBA

16:00 – 16:10
Welcome, Panel introduction

Auksė Balčytienė, Josef Trappel, Hannu Nieminen and TBA

16:10 – 16:30
Manipulation of information space as a tool for hybrid threat operations
Teija Tiilikainen

16:30 – 16:50
TBA
Romanas Judinas

16:50 – 17:10
Vulnerabilities to disinformation: How are they to be understood?
Steven Livingston

17:10 – 17:30
Weaponization of information – the experience from a small state
Nora Biteniece

17:30 – 17:50
Russia’s propaganda failures in the war against Ukraine
Nerijus Maliukevičius

17:50 – 18:30
Q&A
Hannu Nieminen and TBA

Platformization and reactions to social/political crises in Europe

Fri 13 May at 10-12:00 EET

Moderators: Ignas Kalpokas and Barbara Thomass

10:00 – 10:10
Panel overview
Ignas Kalpokas and Barbara Thomass

10:10 – 10:30
Platform policy responses to Russia’s war in Ukraine
Tanya Lokot

10:30 – 10:50
The dark side of the social media: disinformation as a by-product
Mažvydas Kunevičius

10:50 – 11:10
Fosterring resilience to platform effects in a small and rapidly changing news market – multi-stakeholder collaborations for mitigating online disinformation
Ieva Ivanauskaitė, Auksė Balčytienė

11:10 – 11:30
Beyond fact-checking: Restoring trust in Central Europe
Adriana Dergam

11:30 – 12:00
Q&A
Ignas Kalpokas and Barbara Thomass

Information disequilibria in contemporary Europe: responses to information disorders

Fri 13 May at 13-15:00 EET

Moderators: Epp Lauk and Kristina Juraitė

13:00 – 13:10
Panel overview
Epp Lauk and Kristina Juraitė

13:10 – 13:30
Pseudoscience and pro-Russian disinformation: Best friends forever?
Peter Kreko

13:30 – 13:50
Croatia: An information environment in exploration
Dražen Hoffmann

13:50 – 14:10
Assessing information disorder in the digital media welfare state: A Rights-based approach
Minna Aslama Horowitz

14:10 – 14:30
The method to their madness: Kremlin disinformation
Lukas Andriukaitis

14:30 – 15:00
Q&A
Epp Lauk and Kristina Juraitė

Platformization and changes in the European news ecosystem: Results from the national workshops reviewed in the light of the manyfold crises

Fri 13 May at 15:30-18:00 EET

Moderators: Josef Trappel and Auksė Balčytienė

15:30 – 15:40
Panel overview
Josef Trappel and Auksė Balčytiene

National presentations (15-20′)

Hungary
Peter Bajomi-Lazar

Portugal
Helena Sousa

Finland
Hannu Nieminen

The Dutch part of Belgium
Leen D’Haenens and Hanne Vandenberghe

Austria
Tales Tomaz

Lithuania
Auksė Balčytienė and Hannu Nieminen with Dominyka Lapelytė, Rimgailė Kasparairė, Aistė Turčinavičiūtė and Patricija Naujanytė

17:30 – 18:00
Q&A
Josef Trappel and Auksė Balčytienė

Speakers

Lukas Andriukaitis is an Associate Director at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) based in Belgium.

Minna Aslama Horowitz is a docent at the University of Helsinki, Finland, a researcher at the Nordic Observatory for Digital Media and Information Disorder (NORDIS), a Fellow at St. John’s University, New York, and an Expert on Advocacy and Digital Rights at the Central European University, Vienna. She researches (public media) policies, digital rights, and media activism.

Peter Bajomi-Lazar is professor of Mass Communication at the Budapest Business School University of Applied Sciences. 

Auksė Balčytienė is a professor of journalism and communication and UNESCO Co-Chair on MIL for Knowledge Inclusive Societies at VMU, Lithuania. She is PI for the EU funded project DIGIRES, which is a national association (http://digires.lt). Her research focus is on digital media infused social changes, and democratic forms of resilience against information disorders.

Nora Biteniece is a consultant at the Strategic Communication Coordination Department of the State Chancellery, Latvia where she monitors information environment and works on various national and international efforts to identify and counter disinformation.  

Adriana Dergam is a project manager at the national Hub CEDMO Central European Digital Media Observatory (https://cedmohub.eu).

Leen D’Haenens is Full Professor at the Institute for Media Studies (IMS) and Vice-dean International Relations of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Leuven (KU Leuven).

Dražen Hoffmann works on the development and implementation of educational activities for teachers, youth and other target groups in the fields of political and media literacy, and on improving the implementation of Civic Education in the formal education system at the democracy watchdog organisation Gong from Zagreb, Croatia. He works on Gong’s EDMO-funded project “ProFact” on media literacy and awareness-raising activities. 

Ieva Ivanauskaitė is Head of Business Development at DELFI (www.delfi.lt) which is one of the biggest digital news media groups in Lithuania and the Baltic countries.

Kristina Juraitė is a professor and Head of the Department of Public Communications at VMU, Lithuania; she is also UNESCO Co-Chair on MIL for Knowledge Inclusive Societies. Her interests include media and information literacy, cultural communication and participation, news media discourses, visual communication and culture.

Romanas Judinas is an advisor at the Threat Management and Crisis Prevention Group at the Office of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania.

Ignas Kalpokas is an Associate Professor and program chair for the graduate program on Future Media and Journalism at VMU. His research encompasses identity formation through communication, particularly focusing on post-truth; algorithmic governance of social life; more broadly, the attention economy and the platform ecosystem.

Rimgailė Kasparaitė is a graduate student of Future Media and Journalism at VMU, and junior researcher at DIGIRES (http://digires.lt).

Peter Kreko is a Hungarian economist, political psychologist, political scientist, and professor. He currently serves as the Director of the Political Capital Institute, and as a senior external researcher for the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Mažvydas Kunevičius is a former officer of the Lithuanian Military StratCom.

Dominyka Lapelytė is communications specialist at VMU, and junior researcher at DIGIRES (http://digires.lt).

Epp Lauk is professor emerita of journalism at Jyvaskyla University, Finland, and professor at the Department of Public Communications at VMU, Lithuania. Her research interests are in media democratization and media systems transformation, and also a broad spectrum of questions linked with journalism change and professionalization.

Steven Livingston is a Founding Director of the Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics (IDDP) and Professor of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University, the US. His expertise is in media and information technology’s role in foreign affairs policy making, including economic development, governance, and human rights advocacy and security.

Tanya Lokot is Associate Professor in Digital Media and Society at the School of Communications, DCU, Ireland. She researches threats to digital rights, networked authoritarianism, internet freedom, and internet governance in Eastern Europe. 

Nerijus Maliukevičius is a lecturer in the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University, Lithuania. His research focuses on information warfare, strategic communication, conflict management as well as Russian studies.

Patricija Naujanytė is a PhD student with a focus on media literacy at the Department of Public Communications at VMU, and junior researcher at DIGIRES (http://digires.lt).

Hannu Nieminen is professor emeritus of media and communications at Helsinki University, Finland, and professor at the Department of Public Communications at VMU, Lithuania. His expertise is in media and public sphere, European media and communications policy, digital rights.

Helena Sousa is professor of communication sciences at the Communication and Society Research Centre and dean of the Social Sciences School at the University of Minho, Portugal.

Barbara Thomass is retired professor for International Comparison of Media Systems at the Institute for Media Studies, Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany, and Senior Researcher at Leibniz-Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI). Her main fields of interests are media systems in Western and Eastern Europe, media politics, media and journalism ethics.

Teija Tiilikainen is a political scientist and director of the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats at Helsinki, Finland.

Tales Tomaz is a senior researcher at the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Salzburg. His research interests are in political economy of the digital media.

Josef Trappel is a professor for media policy and media economics and head of the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Salzburg, Austria. He leads the Erasmus Jean Monnet network project EuromediApp (http://euromediapp.org).

Aistė Turčinavičiūtė is a graduate student of Future Media and Journalism at VMU, and junior researcher at DIGIRES (http://digires.lt).

Hanne Vandenberghe is a senior researcher and lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Leuven and the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at the Ghent University. Her main research interests are media policy, the relationship between news and democracy and the representation of diversity issues in the news.

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