Pluralism and the Pandemic: Media, Technology and Online Dialogue

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.