Building peace in the minds of men and women

UNESCO advocates ROAM principles to harness AI for journalism and media development

15 April 2019

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UNESCO presented ongoing research “Steering AI and Advanced ICT’s for Knowledge Societies: A ROAM Perspective” and moderated a panel at WSIS Forum 2019, Geneva, April 2019.
© UNESCO

A multi-stakeholder discussion last week assessed the opportunities and challenges of guiding the Artificial Intelligence (AI) development to strengthen the role of journalism and media development in accord with UNESCO’s Internet Universality ROAM principles.

The occasion was a panel UNESCO convened during the 13th facilitation meeting of WSIS (World Summit of Information Society) C9 Media, in Geneva.

 “Algorithms can threaten media pluralism by the micro-targeting of select audiences, which can range from targeted advertisements to politically-motivated ones,” said Xianhong Hu, when she presented the summary findings of UNESCO’s research Steering AI for Knowledge Societies and advanced ICT’s: A ROAM Perspective.

The preview document proposes that AI development should align with UNESCO’s principles of human Rights, Openness, Accessibility and Multi-stakeholder governance.

“The public service mission is to expose citizens to a plurality of diverse ideas and opinions including those that are antagonistic to theirs, but content personalization by algorithms is undermining media pluralism and leading to fragmented and polarized societies,” stated Mr. Giacomo Mazzone representing EBU.

 “The press cannot be free if journalists and their sources are under surveillance all the time,” said Ms. Elodie Vialle from Rapporteurs Sans Frontières. She highlighted that AI and the massive collection of data have an important consequence in the right to privacy of all individuals including journalists. 

“AI can save resources and time for journalists so they can spend more time investigating about complex social issues,” pointed out Mr. Michael Oghia, Global Forum for Media Development, who recognized the advantages AI brings to journalism. He also noted that media needed a sustainable business model in digital age, and that it was important  to examine the human rights impact of the targeted advertisement business model of Internet companies.

Carlos Afonso, an academic expert, addressed the difficulty of countering disinformation and political micro-targeting. He recommended a strong justice system to go against the corporate organizations and individuals responsible for election interference, without falling into unjustified censorship of information.

He also highlighted the importance of local content creation and preserving memory and archives in digital age as promoted by the IGF Best Practice Platform of Local Content.

Interventions from the audience highlighted issues of AI impacting job losses in journalism, linked to the need of journalists to be trained to use AI in newsroom. Participants of the meeting called for more multistakeholder discussions with journalists having a seat at the table. UNESCO was commended by panelists as being a good facilitator between those on the ground impacted by algorithms and those who created them.

In fulfilment of its role as leading the WSIS Action line on media, UNESCO will continue to convene related discussion at WSIS For a in future.

UNESCO’s ongoing research on AI will elaborate key options for actions for different stakeholders, including media, as well as overarching options for shaping the future of AI development.

The preliminary brochure is online at https://en.unesco.org/system/files/unesco-steering_ai_for_knowledge_societies.pdf   as well as on UNESCO’s webpage dedicated to Artificial Intelligence https://en.unesco.org/artificial-intelligence.