Never have there been more opportunities for free expression than there are now. But the downside to all that is that digital information can also open the floodgates to all manner of abuse, fake news and lies.
Digitisation has empowered countless people around the world to express themselves publicly with far greater ease. Anyone who has access to digital platforms can now share any sort of information completely independent of long-established media organizations, thus gaining direct access to national and global audiences.
There are certain influencers who even reach more users via YouTube, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter than many of the traditional media houses are able to. The advent of fast and cost-effective digital production and distribution methods has exponentially increased the diversity of globally available content and viewpoints.
How can established media organizations compete with independent information sources in the digital age? Join the debate during the digital Global Media Forum 2020.
Journalism in an age of polarization
There have never been more opportunities for free expression than there are now in the digital age. But the downside to all that is that digital information can also open the floodgates to all manner of abuse. Half-truths, rumors and false claims circulate on the net, reinforced by algorithms and agents of so-called "artificial intelligence" — such as social bots. The enemies of freedom, such as populists and demagogues, take advantage of this in a bid to influence public opinion.
Does this mean that credible media organizations traditionally tasked with selecting content and sources for audiences have therefore become obsolete in their role as the "gatekeepers" of information? How can established media outlets compete and succeed in making use of digital platforms? How can they retain their position of influence when it comes to the shaping of public opinion? How can big data and artificial intelligence - including deep learning, speech assistants and bot journalism - be used to safeguard plurality of opinion in the digital world?
With more diverse choices of and increased access to free and unbiased information available, autocratic regimes around the globe have taken to employing more and more sophisticated instruments to monitor and suppress objectionable information that doesn’t quite suit their agenda.
These include firewalls, social credit systems, gait analyses and other systems, facilitating the nearly total surveillance of entire societies. Vague legal guideline supposedly designed to protect privacy on the net meanwhile often only serve to intimidate unwelcome critics. How can digitisation be used to preserve and protect freedom of expression even in such autocratic systems? How can media organisations and diplomatic circles help give a voice to the voiceless?
The role of digital players in times of uncertainty
Meanwhile, intermediary corporations such as Google and Facebook as well as other digital giants such as Amazon and other conglomerates continue to grow even more powerful, as their influence on public opinion expands. Can this be contained? And should it?
Should antitrust law be applied in order to prevent the forming of monopolies that ultimately restrict freedom of expression by limiting and restricting access to a broader diversity of views? And what revenue models can established media turn to in order to remain competitive in the digital age?
The digitisation of the media landscape presents many opportunities as well as challenges to established players and newcomers alike. The Global Media Forum 2020 will discuss all these prospects and examine what contributions the inevitable digitisation of media and news can make to safeguarding the values of pluralism around the world.
In 2020, Deutsche Welle will offer digital networking opportunities to all friends of the GMF. We will use digital formats to promote discussions on this year's topic "Pluralism. Populism. Journalism." and create opportunities for interactions and exchanges within our global conference community. As ever, we will use these means to drive the agenda in these turbulent times. You are all welcome to participate in these digital discussions. Deutsche Welle will provide information about our offers and content for this global, interdisciplinary conversation via our newsletters and on the Global Media Forum social media channels.