LIRNEasia CEO Helani Galpaya speaks on disinformation and AI in the Global South at DW Global Media Forum

Posted on June 25, 2024  /  0 Comments

The implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) extend beyond mere technological advancement. There is no doubt that while the Global North is gaining most of the benefits of AI, the Global South faces significant problems, such as biased language models. AI has the potential to transform our media systems. It can also disrupt business models, spread disinformation, and erode trust in society.

However, AI also offers a transformative potential to democratise information access and increase digital participation. What are the risks and dependencies in the media sector, and how can people in the Global South benefit from AI’s opportunities?

Answers to these critical questions were discussed at a plenary session themed “Disinformation and Disruption—AI’s Impact on the Global South” at the 2024 DW Annual Global Media Forum. The conference was held on June 17-18, 2024, in Bonn, Germany, with the attendance of around 1,500 media professionals as well as decision-makers from politics, civil society, culture, education, business, and science from over 100 countries — including many from the Global South.

LIRNEasia CEO Helani Galpaya, who was invited to be a speaker at the plenary session, discussed and shared solutions to the pressing questions facing journalism and media today around the world. The panel discussion, moderated by Natascha Schwanke (Director of Media Development at Deutsche Welle Akademie), explored the challenges posed by AI’s role in shaping media landscapes in the Global South. The other experts on the panel included Asmelash Teka Hadgu (Co-founder and CTO of Lesan and Fellow at DAIR), Michael Schloms (Head of Human Rights, Disability Inclusion, Media at the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ), and Zoé Titus (Director at the Namibia Media Trust, Chairperson of the Global Forum for Media Development).

Helani Galpaya, highlighted how AI is one part of the problem and part of the solution in a wicked problem characterised by complex interactions of social, economic and political systems.  She noted that platforms need to work with other stakeholders in finding solutions. At present, platforms understand virality and fact checking organisations try to understand true/false nature of content. What is needed is the meeting of the two, she said. 

She also addressed the disparity in resources for less-spoken languages, stressing the need for the research community to carry out the foundational tasks in Natural Language Processing (NLP) such as robust translation engines, sentiment analysis tools, and summarisation techniques. These foundational tools are essential, she pointed out, to bridge the gap with Language Models (LLMs) dominant in major languages and effectively tackle linguistic diversity challenges in the present digital world.

Helani also talked about taxation as one part of the solution – using platform company taxes to pay for digital literacy fact checking and other services that remove some of the harms of viral misinformation.

Asmelash Teka Hadgu, Co-founder and CTO of Lesan and Fellow at DAIR, highlighted the challenges faced by small tech companies, like his own, in the face of dominant big tech firms. He emphasised that making technologies open-source often results in these companies losing control over their data, when the date is assimilated by larger corporations to bolster their own models. This dynamic, he argued, places smaller firms at a significant disadvantage, hindering their ability to compete on equal footing in the tech ecosystem.

Michael Schloms, Head of “Human Rights, Disability Inclusion, Media,” brought a nuanced perspective to the discussion by emphasising that while technology plays a role in addressing challenges such as AI and misinformation, the ultimate solutions are political in nature. Schloms argued that addressing issues of AI’s impact on media integrity and misinformation requires robust political frameworks and governance mechanisms.

Stay tuned for the session video coming soon.

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