BLOG published on 27 Oct 2023

Navigating the digital frontier: the impact of AI on media literacy

Portrait image of Jean Philip De Tender, EBU Deputy Director General/Director Media
Jean Philip De Tender, EBU Deputy Director General/Director Media

Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a powerful force shaping many aspects of our lives. I would argue that one domain where its impact is particularly significant – but has yet to be fully investigated or appreciated – is media literacy.

From automated fact-checking to personalized content recommendations, AI is both a boon and a challenge for individuals looking to make sense of the vast digital landscape.

Here are my takeaways on the upsides and the potential issues around the impact of AI on media and information literacy - and what it means for all of us in the era of information overload.

The Good. Empowering media literacy:

Efficient information analysis. AI tools can sift through massive amounts of data at speeds that are impossible for the human brain. This is a game-changer for media literacy, enabling quick and efficient analysis of information. Automated fact-checking algorithms can swiftly verify claims, helping users distinguish between credible and misleading content.

Content recommendations. AI-driven recommendation systems enhance the user experience by suggesting content tailored to individual preferences. While this can create filter bubbles, it can also expose users to diverse perspectives and information that they might find relevant. The key lies in educating users to be aware of the algorithmic nature of these recommendations.

Deepfake detection. The rise of deepfake technology has raised concerns about the authenticity of media content. AI algorithms designed to detect deepfakes can assist in identifying manipulated visuals or audio, contributing to a more discerning audience.

The Bad. Challenges to media literacy:

Deepfakes and manipulation. The same technology used to detect deepfakes can also be used to create highly convincing fake content. This poses a significant challenge to media literacy as individuals must grapple with distinguishing between authentic and manipulated media. The fakes are terrifyingly good. Education on recognizing the signs of manipulation becomes more and more crucial. 

Algorithmic bias. AI algorithms powering social media feeds and news aggregators can inadvertently reinforce biases. Chances are, users will be exposed to content that aligns with their existing beliefs, limiting their exposure to diverse perspectives. Media literacy education must address the influence of algorithms and teach individuals to critically evaluate the information presented to them. 

Overreliance on AI. There is a risk of overreliance on AI for information analysis. While these tools are powerful, human judgment and critical thinking remain irreplaceable. Media literacy education must emphasize the complementary role of AI, encouraging users to be active, discerning participants in the information ecosystem.

So where does that leave us?

AI and its impact on media literacy is a double-edged sword. As we navigate this digital frontier, it’s essential that we harness the benefits while mitigating the potential pitfalls. 

Education is the linchpin. Our Media Intelligence Service report - Public Service Media: Strengthening Media Literacy – references 54 public service media (PSM) organizations that offer media literacy initiatives across 33 markets. Thirty EBU Members answered our survey. All of the responders to that survey said that media literacy would increase in importance for them in the years ahead and AI was listed as one of the key areas.  

Education will empower individuals to critically engage with AI-driven technologies, recognize biases and navigate the complex media landscape with confidence. By fostering a media-literate society, we can ensure AI becomes a force for informed decision-making and democratic discourse rather than a source of confusion and bad information.