UGANDA SOCIAL MEDIA CONFERENCE 2018

DEMOCRACY AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IN THE NEW AGE OF DIGITAL (DIS) INFORMATION

CONFERENCE DATE: 28th June 2018

VENUE: MACKINNON SUITS

CONFERENCE BACKGROUND

The Uganda Social Media Conference is an annual programme organized by the Uganda country office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) which aims to bring together key stakeholders from government, civil society, academia and the media to have a constructive exchange on the impact of social media on state and society, highlighting both opportunities and challenges. The conference provides a unique platform for theorizing, dialoguing and engaging on how the growing relevance of social media shapes our social and political interactions and changes the way we access and process information.

The conference is part of KAS’ global engagement in the championing of the ideals of democracy and good governance through the promotion of free and professional media through journalism trainings and scholarship programmes as well as facilitating networking and dialogue platforms.

The inaugural social media conference took place in July 2015 and it was the first ever public fora that prioritized the discourse on social media as a tool for political engagement in Uganda. At that conference, experts assessed the impact of social media on political communication and civic engagement in Uganda”.

In July 2016, the second edition of the Social Media Conference focused on the question how Social Media is transforming Uganda’s political and social landscape. Through a series of panels and break-away sessions the conference explored a wide range of topics, including the impact of social media on democratic spaces, the challenges for traditional media, opportunities for good governance and service delivery, social media dynamics with regard to contemporary culture, as well as the specific opportunities and challenges for women in online spaces and social media.

The third edition of the Social Media Conference, took place in June 2017 and it provided another opportunity for deepening and expanding the discussions and exploring new perspectives under the theme Facts, Freedoms and Rights in a Connected World. Conversations at the conference were centered on the interconnectivity between social media and - the new rise of populism, youth engagement, digital humanitarianism, feminism and press freedom.

THE 2018 EDITION

The fourth edition of the Social Media Conference, taking place on 28 June 2018, will provide a unique opportunity for deepening and expanding the discussions and exploring new perspectives under the theme “Uganda in the New Age of Digital (Dis) Information”

In 2018, we will focus on digital information or rather disinformation and how it shapes public perceptions, opinions, behaviors and its impact on political processes. Information from internet sources is fast becoming a mainstream source of information for millions around the world. Not only has internet become a primary source of news for mass populations, but it has also become major outlets for news agencies to share information with their various audiences. In fact, the internet has led to an exponential rise in the democratization of information making everyone with access a source of news. As the Internet has become a widely relied upon channel for learning about the world, effective manipulation by malicious actors are shaping perceptions, threatening democratic processes, markets, and national stability.

While disinformation has a long history, its reach, scale, sophistication and effectiveness have climbed to unprecedented levels due in large part to the ubiquity and viral speed of social media. Automation and artificial intelligence have dramatically lowered the cost of spreading disinformation at scale. One of the biggest threats of disinformation is its ability to undermine public trust in the core institutions of democracy.

Digital disinformation is sometimes framed as computational propaganda, defined as the use of digital information and communication technologies to manipulate perceptions, affect cognition, and influence behavior. Computational propaganda uses automated bots -- which often pose as legitimate social media users - to artificially amplify the reach of disinformation. Bots can target individuals by collecting data on preferences and online behaviors. The most recent example is the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica saga where data of over 50M Facebook users was extracted and used to manipulate the election processes in the US elections. There are also reports that the firm manipulated election process in Nigeria and Kenya.

The greatest paradox of the digital disinformation age is that coming up with legislative and policy efforts to avert the vice is proving almost impossible, even in western democracies. This is partly because of the emergence of new platforms, proliferation of civic tech counter innovation strategies among others. Similarly, the available solutions on offer reflect an inadequate understanding of the problem – and could have negative unintended consequences. For instance, social media shutdown has been adopted by some African governments during elections.

A discourse on digital disinformation and its impact on democratic processes in Uganda and Africa at large is timely because the continent is part of the global village and uniquely interwoven in the global political economy agenda. This conference will be the first public event where this subject is discussed in Uganda. Whilst the conference will offer participants and the general public the opportunity to reflect and learn about this new digital, it will also enable public policy decision makers in Uganda to continue shaping policies that work to promote constructive utilization of social media for improving constructive political and social engagements.

Countering digital disinformation is tied to our work of promoting media literacy, access to information and professional media development. Disinformation leads to easy spread of fake news, propaganda which is a big blow to democratic advancement. When people are misinformed, they cannot make informed political decisions. Engaging in politics from a misinformed perspective leads to political engagements which are destructive rather than constructive.


FORMAT OF THE 2018 CONFERENCE

The conference will adopt a multifaceted content delivery and market-place approach to suit the various needs of the participants all day long. In the first half of the morning, three parallel workshop sessions will be conducted and co-hosted by experts from organizations with pioneering projects on the training subject.

The afternoon session will commence with a technical insight address by an experienced social media analyst. This will be followed by a keynote address that will be delivered by prominent speaker. Whilst the insight address will present the technicalities behind social media manipulation and it is used as a disinformation tool, the keynote address will present an overview of what does means for democratic engagement and civic participation. The two addresses will be followed by a panel discussion session with distinguished experts and practitioners following Chatham House rules. After the main panel and plenary discussion session, participants will be encouraged to explore the market-place setup of the conference venue. The market-place will be a physical spot where key players in the digital landscape in Uganda will be showcasing their products and services to the public at the various exhibition corners. At the same time, there will be a speaker’s corner where three speakers will make insightful short addresses. The speakers are experts involved in social media and civic engagement work.

The last segment of the conference will be an evening of great talks and inspirational stories. The session adopts a TEDx Talk style format will create an additional space for thought-provoking short presentations from 6 key influencers and experts.

In order to reach a bigger audience beyond the conference halls, the event will be streamed live online. In addition, Facebook live segments will feature short interviews with organizers, speakers and participants as well as behind-the-scenes impressions from the event. Under the hashtag #UgandaSocialMedia participants and the interested public can contribute to the discussions.

The 2018 Social Media Conference will be implemented in partnership with Media Challenge Initiative (MCI).


HOW THE CONFERENCE IS STRUCTURED


WORKSHOP SESSION 1


Understanding Online Hate Speech

This session will seek to answer the following questions: What is hate speech, and how can someone know it when they see it online? How harmful is it and how can it easily spread? How should someone respond to a hateful speech attack and how can it be reconciled with the concept of free speech?


WORKSHOP SESSION TWO


UNDERSTANDING FACEBOOK ALGORITHMS

In March 2018, Facebook, the world’s biggest social media network site was embroiled in one of the severest digital misnomer of the century by ‘just’ sharing people’s data with Cambridge Analytica, a firm that uses algorithms to influence user’s behavioral patterns and perception on social media. Within a week, Facebook had lost over $60bn in stock market value.

But this recent revelations surrounding the manipulation of Facebook news feeds to affect the emotional state of users should not be understood as an isolated social experiment, but rather as one point within a far broader setting in which algorithms are powerful forces in everyday life. New forms of data in combination with algorithms, which are the decision-making parts of code, already have significant consequences for how we live and for how we relate to the social world. There is already a vast and complex politics of data circulations that make up the fabric of the social world. Algorithms play the part of manipulating and shaping these circulations of data and deciding what becomes visible and what does not.

In this workshop session, participants will learn what algorithms are and how they shape people’s thoughts and behavioral patterns.


WORKSHOP SESSION THREE


Online Mobile Content Creation for Civic Engagement

We live in the generation of smartphones, where the volume of content created and accessed on mobile devices has grown tremendously. While a couple of years ago it was just enough to be able to read articles and watch videos on the mobile gadgets, now anyone seeking to influence the public discourse must also produce, share and promote content, all on their mobile phones. New mobile applications such as Kinemaster and Canva enable users to shoot, edit and share video and graphical content without ever using a computer. Being able to create and share content all on the phone opens new channels of communication that allow the public greater access to public information while offering new means of empowering citizens to participate in democratic processes.

This mobile content creation workshop will train participants practically in mobile digital content creation tools to help you better engage your audiences without ever having to touch a Computer.