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Mass media in the era of AI, social networks and fakes: who pumps "new oil" and a fox in a chicken coop

16.04.2023 | 05:59 |
 Mass media in the era of AI, social networks and fakes: who pumps "new oil" and a fox in a chicken coop

"New forms of interaction in the international information space" – under this title, a meeting was held in the format of a round table of the diplomatic and media community in Turkmenistan. Press attaches of foreign embassies, representative offices of international organizations, local official and private media, journalists of foreign news agencies accredited in the country gathered at the Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan on Friday to discuss a very topical theme.

In addition, we gathered not just to recite and state, but also to speak out and hear each other. In order to develop some common approaches to the joint formation of a real information picture of the day, which in itself requires further conceptual solutions against the background of increasing information noise and boom.

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Today, there is clearly an increasing interest on the part of the world community in many aspects of life in Central Asia in general, and in Turkmenistan in particular. Only the nascent theoretical discussion and the rhetoric changing in relation to the region have little professional, collegial communication in the field of information.

The meeting at the IMO of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was aimed at more fully involving international journalists, information market experts and diplomats of the relevant profile in a mutually interested dialogue about global and national politics, its social and other dimensions.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Mahri Bashimova delivered a welcoming speech at the meeting.

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The diplomat noted that today we are surrounded by a new information world and this event serves as a platform for rapprochement of positions, overcoming challenges arising in this environment and establishing ties in the international information field, where Turkmenistan intends to promote its positions and master best practices.

At the same time, Mahri Bashimova spoke about the need to improve the activities of private media in the country, the unacceptability of planting ideas and attitudes from outside that contradict the traditional ethical values of the peoples of Central Asia, and called for consolidation of efforts to ensure that the Central Asian region remains a zone of stability and trust, not subject to risks to peace and development. In this context, the idea of the President of Turkmenistan to hold a Central Asian media forum on security issues is relevant.

...The head of the OSCE Center in Ashgabat, Ambassador John McGregor, welcoming those gathered at the meeting, stressed that the development of the media is one of the priorities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

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Turkmenistan's initiative to hold this important event demonstrates the country's active role in promoting these important commitments, McGregor said, expressing the opinion that the topic stated in the title of the meeting is of paramount importance.

Given the recent outstanding achievements in creating practical applications for artificial intelligence, widely available on a global scale, the timing of today's event is more important than ever, the ambassador said.

"As an OSCE participating state for the 31st year, Turkmenistan has taken consistent steps to fulfill its obligations within the Organization, including in the field of freedom and development of the media," McGregor said, expressing hope that this event will contribute to the expansion of international cooperation in the modern information ecosystem.

After the introductory part of the meeting, its working program began, which included sessions on information sustainability and information policy in the era of social networks.

The first session was opened by OSCE expert Marek Beckerman, a journalist and journalism teacher who has been cooperating with Turkmenistan for about 15 years.

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Beckerman began his speech by explaining to the participants of the round table why he touched on two topics in his report – "Aspects of media and information literacy in society" and "Global trends in countering fake news." In his opinion, these spheres are closely interrelated, like two sides of the same coin.

– Media literacy is the consumer part, and fake news is one of the undesirable products of the creative part, but they overlap. Moreover, today in the digital

"The boundaries of these concepts, who is the consumer and who is the creator of the content, have been erased," the expert noted.

Obstacles to the formation of a sustainable and constructive information space are a global problem. In addition, to eliminate them, global decisions need to be made. However, it does not work these days for various reasons, to which the current round table is dedicated.

The concept of "fake news" has become very vague nowadays, which is associated with the distortion of the information space. A lot of states and governments have delegated the responsibilities of managing the information space to the press. Moreover, she performed this function relatively well.


But over time, the role of the press and the circumstances of the information process have changed, in which, thanks to new technologies, new formats have appeared, Beckerman said, comparing the spread of fake news in the information field with the behavior of a fox in a chicken coop.

Who let the fox into the chicken coop? At first, everyone saw this as the fault of the press, allegedly, journalists are not coping with the problem, and the press is responsible for the penetration of fake news.

The creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, said that fakes are distributed through social networks, and they should be responsible for it. However, so far they are experiencing difficulties in solving this issue.

– As it turned out, the truth is a very complex phenomenon. In the information sphere, it is impossible to use the binary principle of "truth–lie". The truth becomes a dynamic, changing phenomenon over time. And if we mechanically approach the question "fake–truthful", then this will not help us cope with the phenomenon of distorted information," the expert expressed his opinion.

In addition, to cope with this problem, in his opinion, media literacy will help. There are modern media literacy programs, but their implementation is an expensive and complex process, Beckerman added.

This topic was continued by the press officer of the US Embassy in Turkmenistan, Helen Shaw, telling about the activities of the diplomatic mission on the promotion of digital literacy of the population of Turkmenistan.

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Thus, a program has been developed for young people and students, according to which, in May, almost every day, classes will be held at the American Center for young people, educational specialists, and media workers, on finding, using and critically evaluating information published in the media. Moreover, the same classes will be held not only in Ashgabat, but also in the regions of the country.

Helen Shaw also suggested visiting the libraries at the embassy's disposal, where many publications on this topic can be found in traditional and digital format. All these resources are available not only for young people, but also for older people.

In addition, the US Embassy organizes free English language classes. About 60% of publications on the Internet are published in English, and possession of it, according to the press officer of the embassy, opens up wide opportunities for new knowledge and ideas expressed from different points of view.

The embassy carries out such work not only with the population, but also with local institutions and organizations. The diplomatic mission also provides professional education for students and journalists, which, according to Helen Shaw, is an important area of activity in the fight against fakes.

Recently, the Embassy has more than doubled its programs for media professionals in order to form leaders in Central Asia, and organizes training in the United States as part of cultural exchange.

– There is a great variety of information in the modern era, and they can shape society, as well as destroy it. Digital literacy in such conditions is important to direct our efforts in the fight against disinformation. We can do this by creating partnerships with global organizations, scientific institutions, media opportunities and directly with the population of Turkmenistan," concludes Helen Shaw, press officer of the US Embassy in Turkmenistan.

...Director of the Scientific Center for Strategic Studies of the Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Shiri Shiriyev devoted his speech at the round table to the development of information literacy of young people.

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Shiri Shiriyev noted that the analytical center he heads has been in existence for only the second year, but during this time business contacts have been established with many similar structures from around the world, including from the Central Asian region.

He also said that in preparation for this speech, he asked his colleagues in the region how serious the issue of information literacy of young people in their countries is. Moreover, all with one voice declared the urgent need to solve the problem of unpreparedness, lack of weapons, and sometimes excessive credulity of the population and, especially, the youth environment, before using information as a means of provocation and deliberate lies.

The discussion of this topic is also dictated by the fact that in this context, the most important question is how to ensure the right of an individual to freedom and accessibility of information. According to the expert, although the methods of restricting access to information sometimes look attractive, they cannot fully contribute to the prevention of challenges and threats arising from the use of social networks and the Internet by young people.

Therefore, a modern young person should be able to not only use a computer, but also to critically evaluate the huge array of data offered by the Internet, be able to systematize, analyze and rationally apply the information received. However, the majority of young people are not yet ready to defend themselves, having limited opportunities due to a lack of knowledge, the head of the Center for Strategic Studies stated.


In this context, he cited Kazakhstan's experience in the development of information literacy of the population. In particular, it adopted a program to reduce information inequality, a National Action Plan for the development of functional literacy of schoolchildren, a law on the protection of children from information that harms their health and development, and other legal acts in this area.

What do experts and specialists recommend for the development of information literacy at the current stage?

In their opinion, it is necessary to attract the widest possible public attention to the problem of information literacy: from the level of governments to the level of teachers, other public organizations, the media; it is necessary to participate in the activities of reputable and influential international organizations, stimulate public interest in the problem by putting issues on information literacy on the agenda of international forums.

Igor Sasin, the own correspondent of the France Press news agency in Turkmenistan, drew the attention of colleagues to such an aspect as the importance of the education of journalists in the fight against disinformation.

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Sasin reminded that fakes are not a new phenomenon. Information manipulation has a thousand-year history, and the evolution of journalistic professionalism began relatively recently.

The Internet and social media have changed the way news is created and distributed. Before the advent of the Internet, people, as a rule, received news from reliable, time-tested sources, that is, from newspapers, television and radio, whose employees were required to comply with strict standards of professional ethics.

With the spread of the global network, new ways of publishing, sharing and consuming information have emerged, and control standards and editorial norms have declined. Many now read the news on social networks and other online sources. However, it is not always easy to determine which stories are reliable and which are not. And through social networks, false information spreads faster than real news.

Disinformation is especially dangerous because it is often well organized, resourced, and backed by technology. The forces behind disinformation expect to convince the audience of the truth of false statements, seek to question the status of reliable information produced by professional journalists.


Countering the growth of fake news is a key task for journalism and journalistic education, as well as the basis for demonstrating the value of high-quality news media, Sasin stressed. At the same time, he noted that it is wrong to blame social networks for all the troubles. Journalism students should understand how the information environment changes over time and how to respond to these challenges.

According to the France Press correspondent, a journalist of the future is a kind of "multimedia artist" who not only writes well, but also takes photos and videos, works with sound, makes editing, that is, has universal competence.

So what is the reason for the rapid spread of fake news?

One of the factors is that they appeal to simple human emotions, so fakes often contain strange statements, cause anger, indignation or even fear. Journalists are faced with the task of checking accuracy, avoiding sensationalism, assimilating and balancing various opinions or conclusions of authoritative experts, and exercising caution.

The change in traditional information channels has led to the fact that fact-checking and verification have become extremely important, since now it is necessary to verify information after it has spread at a high speed in social networks and electronic media, Igor Sasin concluded, pointing out that these areas of professional training should certainly be included in the curriculum of journalism students.

...In turn, the representative of the TASS news agency in Turkmenistan, Oleg Pavlenko, in his speech emphasized the role of the state in creating a sustainable information space.

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We live in a society where information, the technologies of its dissemination and perception have become much more important than it has ever been in the history of humankind. Experts and scientists hastened to christen the information "new oil". It is sometimes difficult for a modern person to simply realize all this wave of news, ads, recommendations, entertainment, advertising information, etc. falling on him. One of the costs of this info-ocean has become previously unthinkable polyphony, polyphony of opinions and assessments.

What is the role of the State in this area?

One of its main functions is regulation, creation of the legal foundations of the information space, Oleg Pavlenko believes. The existence of the rights of freedom of speech, the possibility of expressing one's point of view, position and self-expression does not cause anyone doubts. However, freedom of speech does not mean the ability to slander, insult someone or anything, and pass off a lie as reality, especially if it can cause damage. All this is precisely what the state is called upon to regulate through appropriate legal acts, authorized bodies, etc.

Nevertheless, the state also has the status of an information subject, possessing significant amounts of information about all areas of the country's life. Accordingly, he should have his own "voice", the state should communicate with the people by expressing its official point of view on certain events and phenomena.

The state, having professional media, is able to set the necessary high standards for the entire media space of the country, to resist the pressure of amateur information from the blogosphere, which can pursue its often selfish interests unrelated to the interests of society, the representative of TASS stressed. Oleg Pavlenko also cited the activities of this oldest Russian news agency, which he represents in Turkmenistan, as a positive example in solving this issue.

His mission is fixed in the editorial standard of TASS, which must be strictly observed by all agency employees. And only in real time the work of TASS is provided by about 1,9 thousand employees. By the way, the agency's editorial standard has been published in the form of a textbook and is recommended for students, postgraduates, teachers of faculties and departments of journalism.

However, the information environment does not stand still. We are witnessing literally before our eyes the emergence (and sometimes quickly dying) of various media formats, new ways of packaging and presenting information. Streams, podcasts, live shows – there were no such words a couple of years ago. Therefore, it is important for the media, including state media, not to stand still, to speak to their audience in a changing language, Oleg Pavlenko continued.

Thus, modern media resources and digital projects are developing under the TASS brand, including those aimed at children and teenagers, thematic podcasts, special projects using 360° video, infographics, motion graphics, etc.

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During the second session, OSCE international expert Jakob Parashinky made a speech. He held a media presentation on the topic "The role of social networks in the information space" and talked about how the state can effectively use social networks and implement them as a tool for strategic communications.

Vice-Rector of the IMO of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Gulshat Yusupova presented a view of social networks as a tool of cultural exchange.

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According to Gulshat Yusupova, social networks have made it possible to transform the world into a global village by reducing the distances between people, and have become the platform on which we can understand the language, lifestyle, professional and educational activities, interests, sports, entertainment of residents of other countries. These new media can be a very effective channel for popularizing national culture around the world, Yusupova believes.

She also spoke about the project that specialists of the Technological Center of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan are currently working on – an information portal dedicated to the work of the Turkmen poet Magtymguly Pyragy.

This resource will host the works of the great classic, many scientific, journalistic and literary works by various authors about him – articles, essays, short stories, research papers and other materials.

This project is being developed within the framework of the action plan dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the birth of Magtymguly Pyragy. Celebrations in honor of the anniversary date will be held in 2023-2024 jointly with UNESCO and TURKSOY.

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The editor-in-chief of the ORIENT news site Bekdurdy Amansaryev, in discussions with colleagues, raised a rather complex and ambiguous topic of the use of political PR technologies in the digital era, when, thanks to the increase in the number of all kinds of new media and their audience, information has turned into one of the fast-growing, but sometimes unmanageable resources that states cannot always control.

Starting somewhere in the second half of the XX century, humanity has been on the verge of the Third World War more than once. It is enough to recall the Caribbean crisis, the Syrian conflict and other critical events for the world. In fact, the Third World War has been waged in the global information space for a long time, the head of the publication believes, and the main means of conducting it are PR technologies with which you can create an image of an enemy or friend, strong or weak, hero or coward, etc.

The increased interest in PR technologies in the field of politics is associated with a number of processes. Open aggression has never been approved by the world community. Hence, there was a need to search for new sources of power. The constant development of theories of communication and influence on mass consciousness have made this field of knowledge very popular.

Today, it is PR technologies based on digital media that have turned into a new branch of government, on which the geopolitical and geo-economic processes taking place in the world depend.

Despite the relative novelty of the term "information war", which began to be actively mentioned in the media after the operation "Desert Storm" in 1991, this phenomenon is not something fundamentally new for humanity. The speaker gave several examples from history: back in the V century BC, during the Greco-Persian wars, King Xerxes spread rumors about the myriad of his army in order to intimidate the Greeks, and the Chinese strategist and thinker who lived in the VI century BC, Sun Tzu wrote in the treatise "The Art of War" that war is a way of deception, and was sure that victory is not on the battlefield, but outside it.


In the modern world with its total Internet, and, in particular, in social networks, ideal conditions have been created for conducting information activities: freedom of expression, lack of censorship, accessibility of receiving and transmitting information in any form. PR technologies in this field are built differently than in the media, where they have a vertical orientation - roughly speaking, from top to bottom. The media stands, as it were, above society and "lets down" information to it.

In addition, in social networks, this orientation is horizontal – from user to user, and along the way, the message can acquire details, opinions, etc. It is important to understand here that the mass effect of political PR technologies is based not so much on logical arguments and facts as on an emotional impression.

The main feature of the use of PR technologies is the fact that the consumer of information (reader, viewer, website visitor, etc.) is not a witness to specific events, so he will be guided exclusively by media materials.

From the media, he learns not only about the event itself, but the main thing is that he will immediately receive his assessment, and emotionally colored. In this case, skillfully prepared and timely submitted information becomes his own assessment of events that he did not even see.

– We can see this today on the example of major international media, which, using PR technologies, have the opportunity to impose their point of view on the consumer of information, even if it was initially alien to him, - said Amansaryev.

Often, in an information confrontation, the winner is the one who, professionally using PR technologies, presents a favorable assessment to the audience more quickly and effectively, and not the one who truthfully covers events. Although the truth in a multipolar world is a relative concept, as you know.

In order for this concept not to be completely devalued into something that has its own budget, marketing, PR and other "white noise", there is a need for information neutrality. Turkmenistan, as a state with a neutral foreign policy status, adheres to a neutral policy in its information activities.

As a country that has put forward a global initiative supported by the United Nations, "Dialogue is a guarantee of peace", Turkmenistan stands in the media space for the formation of a new security architecture, a new ecosystem of cooperation and consolidation of efforts in the fight against common challenges and threats.

"Our landmark is what brings people together! We have chosen this slogan as a guide in the work of the ORIENT website. This is our main PR strategy in the media space," summed up the editor–in–chief of the news web resource, which has the status of the first officially registered independent news agency in the country.

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The press officer of the Turkish Embassy in Turkmenistan, Hayrettin Bektash, also joined the dispute. He spoke about the principles of interaction between governments and owners of social networks in the fight against disinformation, giving an example of solving this important issue from the experience of his country.

The Internet has greatly facilitated access to information, but it cannot provide a proportional increase in the accuracy of news. Moreover, if in journalism the fact of the news is verified, then for social networks it is enough just to "hear" a certain message so that it spreads quickly, the press officer noted.

He also said that disinformation is fueled by the beliefs of individuals, calling this phenomenon a "world beyond the truth", in which social networks using bots and other tools to spread fakes become a means of manipulation. Bektash cited data from a Reuters report on digital news for 2021, where the gap between the level of trust in news in the media and the level of trust in news in social networks is increasing: 44% versus 24%, respectively.

– As you know, a powerful earthquake recently occurred in Turkey, which claimed the lives of more than 50 thousand people. While search and rescue operations were underway in the first days of the earthquake, one of the social media users posted a tweet in which he reported that a dam near Hatay province had broken and the entire city could be flooded in a short time, the press officer said.

After this message, a large number of people began to leave this city. At this time, it was even necessary to suspend search and rescue operations. Statements were immediately made that this news does not correspond to reality, but, unfortunately, real news is not as effective as fake, stated Bektash.

Because of the search and rescue operations interrupted by this unreliable information, people who could still be rescued from the rubble died. Therefore, the consequences of a message sent to attract subscribers can be very serious, the press officer stressed.

He also said that after the disaster, some social media users reported that they were trapped under the rubble. When the search and rescue teams went to the specified address, they found that these addresses did not exist or there was no one under the rubble. This kind of fake stuffing prevented rescue teams from doing their job.

Moreover, another recent example from the USA. A few days ago, photos of former US President Donald Trump circulated that he had been taken into custody. Photos taken with the help of artificial intelligence suddenly became a worldwide sensation. Despite the claims that the photos of Trump in handcuffs and among the police were fake, it was impossible to prevent their distribution in millions of copies on social networks. Despite the fact that a number of signs are already known and published, by which it is easy to distinguish real content from generated AI.

In many countries of the world, attempts are being made to develop programs capable of detecting fake news in a few seconds. However, it is difficult to say that we are close to solving this problem. Therefore, the press officer believes, it is necessary to develop methods of combating disinformation, increase media literacy of the population, strengthen the interaction of journalists and official institutions, non-governmental organizations, authorities and scientists.

An important step has been taken in this direction in Turkey. The Center for Combating Disinformation was established in August last year under the Communications Department of the President of the Republic of Turkey. Moreover, most of his work is connected with social networks.


...Following the results of the round table sessions, the Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan held question and answer sessions on topical topics, and in general, the participants of the discussion approved such a format of open dialogue, speaking in favor of its continuation.



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