The Media Literacy and Disinformation Conference, organized by the European Union Delegation to Türkiye in cooperation with the Department of Communication and Design, was held at C-Block Auditorium on February 7, with the participation of representatives from EU member states as well as more than 200 students from diverse academic establishments.
The conference started with opening remarks by Rector Prof. Kürşat Aydoğan. In his speech, Prof. Aydoğan emphasized the impact of the Internet revolution on the media, which has undergone a drastic transformation with the rise of social media as the primary source of news.
He underlined that this transformation has led to disinformation, manipulation and a concentration of media power rather than the prior expectation, which was the democratization of the media. Prof. Aydoğan concluded that the sector will see more disturbance in the years to come before everything settles to a new state of equilibrium.
Jurgis Vilčinskas, deputy head of the European Union Delegation to Türkiye, underlined in his speech that information integrity—access to reliable, accurate and impartial information—is fundamental for democracies, including Türkiye’s, as it empowers citizens to make informed decisions and exercise civic rights. Misinformation and disinformation are the most immediate risks to the world as they are being leveraged by foreign and domestic actors more easily, rapidly and cost-effectively to further widen societal divides. Pointing out that almost half of the world population, including Türkiye, will take part in more than 60 elections in 2024, Vilčinskas stressed the importance of strengthening defenses against the threats of information manipulation and disinformation. He argued that media and digital literacy is key part of the combat against disinformation and highlighted the ongoing EU efforts towards that end in Türkiye, which include trainings, support to fact-checking initiatives and a range of podcasts and videos to raise awareness.
In his inspiring speech, Prof. Emrah Safa Gürkan (IR ’03, HIST MA ’06) underlined that disinformation is not a new thing and information has always been manipulated to fit political agendas throughout history. Prof. Gürkan argued that building hegemonic concepts through information distortion is more dangerous as it operates in a less visible yet more destructive way in the long term. Pointing out that there has never been “objective information,” he concluded that hegemonic discourses strategically legitimize one set of knowledge and delegitimize others.
The event included three panels: “Why Do We Need Media Literacy?” moderated by Assoc. Prof. Emel Özdora with the participation of Pelin Mavili, Director of Public Policy for Netflix Türkiye, Middle East and North Africa, Emre İlkan Saklıca, Director of teyit.org, and journalist Coşkun Aral; “What Is the Role of Artificial Intelligence?” moderated by Dr. Ayşenur Dal with the participation of Yunus Çağlar, Director of doğrula.org, Prof. Erkan Saka of İstanbul Bilgi University and Hakkı Alkan, founder of shiftdelete.net; and “Can We Win the Fight?” moderated by Dr. Lale Şıvgın Dündar with the participation of Ömer Faruk Görçin, Anadolu Agency’s check line director, journalist Duygu Güvenç and Kaan Kayabalı, CEO and founding partner of Onedio and Mediazone. Students who attended the conference were presented certificates of participation by the EU Delegation to Türkiye.