Myanmar: Exploring tools and collaboration to combat online disinformation

Identifying and fighting politically motivated disinformation is a major challenge in many countries, including Myanmar. DW Akademie recently held a two-day workshop looking at tools and networks for countering this.

While technology for spreading fake news and manipulated images on social media has  become increasingly sophisticated, so have the tools for fighting them.

Media | 21.05.2019

Geolocation was one of the workshop's topics

At a two-day intensive training held late March in Yangon, Myanmar, trainers focused on conveying methods to verify and tackle false information and hate speech. Participants came from civil society organizations (CSOs), including MIDO, a Myanmar organization specializing in fact-checking and monitoring hate speech.

"I learned a lot at the workshop, including geolocation," said MIDO member Gar Gar. Geolocation identifies the location of a person, for example, using a mobile phone or the Internet. It verifies whether the images provided are authentic or manipulated.

Saung Kha is the founder of an activist group promoting freedom of expression in Myanmar. "We've been monitoring fake news and hate speech being spread online," he explained. "We're now trying to counter this and we need techniques like the ones we are learning about here."

Media | 06.04.2018

DW's Julia Bayer was impressed that some civil society organizations are already collaborating on verification efforts

Networks are key for verification

Trainer Julia Bayer from DW's Social Media Team was impressed by how some CSOs have started working together. "One participant told me that when they do a field report in Rakhine State [a western state caught in conflict], they shoot videos for Mapillary so that others can later use the data to verify news from the region," said Bayer. Mapillary is a crowd-sourcing platform that uses street-level images for creating highly detailed maps.

The participants were highly motivated, said trainer Eoghan Sweeney, who had previously worked for First Draft, a global verification network.

Deutsche Welle has also developed its own verification tool, Truly Media. Following the workshop, Bayer, together with Wilfried Runde from DW's Innovation Team, presented the tool to individual CSOs and media outlets. They discussed ways to combat disinformation in the run-up to Myanmar's general election, scheduled for 2020.

Preparing for disinformation campaigns ahead of the election

Almost 21 million Facebook users in Myanmar are regular targets of false information and hate speech, especially if they belong to religious or ethnic minorities, are activists or journalists.

In a separate meeting, CSOs and media outlets learned about DW's own verification tool

In response, Myanmar CSOs and media are thinking about sharing various skills and resources. This is already happening in the Philippines and Indonesia, for example, where fact-checking alliances have formed.

Over the coming months, Myanmar CSOs and media outlets will be exploring their own possibilities, with DW Akademie standing by for support.