The second panel of the day focused on strategies and tools for balancing policy and self-regulation to counter disinformation in the Western Balkans.
Moderated by Davor Marko of the Thomson Foundation, the panel began with remarks from Mr. Bence Akos Gat of the Duel Amical Association in Budapest. Gat highlighted the impact of artificial intelligence, noting, “Thanks to artificial intelligence, we do not need more human resources to create disinformation. It can be done by machines. The question is whether the answer can also come from machines and automation.”
According to Gat, “The Western Balkans are in a period of geopolitical transition, with discussions about EU enlargement translating into a fight for the soul of the Western Balkan countries. It involves China, Russia, and Europe. We must ensure we avoid the risk of disinformation and guarantee that everyone receives genuine information about Europe.”
Thanks to artificial intelligence, we do not need more human resources to create disinformation. It can be done by machines. The question is whether the answer can also come from machines and automationBence Akos Gat
In her remarks, Krisztina Rozgonyi from the Institute of Comparative Media and Communication Studies at the University of Klagenfurt focused on regulation and potential tools to address the issue.
“I quote an excellent report from the European Commission released in 2021. ‘Disinformation is endemic in the Western Balkans without exception. It is a symptom, rather than a cause, of a deeper breakdown of social cohesion,’ emphasized Rozgonyi.
Disinformation is endemic in the Western Balkans without exception. It is a symptom, rather than a cause, of a deeper breakdown of social cohesionKrisztina Rozgonyi
“It is not a new phenomenon, but rather inherent in the broken system we are living with—the broken system of media and social cohesion. Another quote from a very recent research study by the University of Amsterdam, attempting to cluster countries across Europe regarding disinformation, states that ‘SEE countries belong to the polarized cluster that has a long history of stark, partisan divide, social media misuse, and a low level of trust. They are the most likely to be vulnerable to disinformation.’ Symptoms and vulnerability are the key issues we should focus on.”
Lejla Bicakcic of the Center for Investigative Reporting provided examples from her home, Contracting Party. She emphasized that recent legislative changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which have criminalized defamation after more than 22 years, make it much harder for journalists and increase the chances of self-censorship.
Mihajlo Lahtov, a well-known expert in the field, commented, “We tend to simplify into true and fake, and I believe it is dangerous because it doesn’t solve the problem and doesn’t open a discussion for the real complexity of the media. We need to talk about many other topics, and I am happy that this conference is addressing media content in a proper way. We understand there is propaganda, partisan journalism, a lot of half-truths or half-fakes.”
“We tend to simplify into true and fake, and I believe it is dangerous because it doesn’t solve the problem and doesn’t open a discussion for the real complexity of the mediaMihajlo Lahtov
He continued, “The other critical issue is the following. We live in a very complex world. It is a world bombarded by millions of media, and it seems we are not able to keep pace. The world today is bombarded by irrelevant information. Censorship nowadays doesn’t work like the good old times when you blocked information, but what you can do is flood people with irrelevant information.”
Ranko Vujovic of the Media Council for Self-Regulation in Montenegro stated, “Self-regulation is not functioning well. It is very weak, given the polarized situation in the Montenegrin media community. There is not a lot of help from self-regulation. To be honest, Montenegrin traditional media is not the biggest problem at home because we have bigger problems with media coming from abroad.”
I think that globally, the planet is not ready to fight with disinformation, especially in the Western world. The internet should be regulated, and we are already too late in this discussion for many yearsRanko Vujovic
He added, “Disinformation is a virtual bullet to attack democracy worldwide. As I can see, they have been very successful until now in doing this. We have several important elections in the world next year—EU, Canada, US, India. We will see what strategies political centers will use to obstruct these elections and how they will use these elections for their aims. I think that globally, the planet is not ready to fight with disinformation, especially in the Western world. The internet should be regulated, and we are already too late in this discussion for many years.”