Pluralism and the Pandemic

Media, Technology and Online Dialogue

The media is a vehicle of cultural exchange, with huge potential to either strengthen understanding and respect for diversity or deepen societal divides.

When this potential is realized, diverse voices and stories are represented. Prejudice and ignorance are dismantled through research and fact-checking. This contributes positively to the recognition and respect for underrepresented perspectives and, over the long-term, to stability and social harmony.

When the media fails to advance inclusion, false, inflammatory information becomes widespread, often hurting those who are most vulnerable in our societies, such as refugees, asylum seekers, minority groups and women. Fake news circulated on social media has created echo chambers that reinforce polarized views and increase social divisions.

During the pandemic, we have seen media being shared online at breakneck pace. People’s hunger for information has resulted in false, defamatory stories getting amplified before they can be critically vetted by reputable sources. The World Health Organization has called this an “infodemic”. As a result, islamophobia and racist abuse have spread online.

Social media companies are working swiftly to perfect machine learning algorithms to identify this information and censor it. Simultaneously, these companies are developing ways to track peoples’ movements for contact tracing. Questions about privacy, security and censorship abound. But how about the potential for social media to become a space for inclusive dialogue across different perspectives?

In this section, we explore ways to advance narratives in the media and online that foster empathy and respect across differences. We examine how to design technologies to address the pandemic without jeopardizing human rights, while building online spaces that are more conducive to dialogue and connection across differences. Finally, we consider how to leverage media and technology to drive positive changes at the institutional level.

“We Are in This Together”: How Our Shared Fragility Reminds Us of Our Shared Humanity

An interview with the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson

Madame Clarkson reflects on the fragility of our societies that has been exposed by COVID-19, the changing nature of media and journalism, and how far Canada...

The Massive Challenge of Governing Online Spaces Across Africa

An interview with Nanjala Nyabola

Nanjala discusses how the pandemic and trans-national movements like Black Lives Matter are already moving the dial on the future…

Pluralism in a Digital Age: Can We Build Algorithms for Inclusion?

Aleem Walji and Radhika Shah

A Conversation About Virtual Empathy

Waidehi Gokhale, CEO of Soliya

Reflecting on the impact of the pandemic on connection and exchange (both physical and virtual), the digital divide, and the...

From Pandemic to ‘Infodemic’: A Thriving Media Landscape is Urgently Needed

Antonio Zappulla, CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation

The dangers of conspiracy theories, propaganda, and media extinction put societies at risk but pluralism is still the best antidote...

Using a Pluralism Lens to Think About Digital Citizenship Education in the Context of COVID-19

Nicole Fournier-Sylvester, GCP Education Manager

Highlighting how a Pluralism Lens can be applied to technology, the Internet, and education in the COVID-19 era and beyond.