On April 11, Meedan was celebrated alongside three other outstanding organizations as a 2024 Skoll Award for Social Innovation recipient. Take a look at Bice’s address to attendees at the forum. This speech is lightly edited for context.

This Means More Than You Know

“Meedan” is an Arabic word for public square. As it happens, Meedan began in a sort of public square 20 years ago when I found myself sitting in the middle of Market Street in San Francisco, my hands bound with a plastic zip tie. That day millions of people around the world had gathered in city streets to protest the first day of the Iraq War.

The day after that, I started a project to build a digital town square to connect news junkies and translation geeks across English- and Arabic-language communities to collaboratively curate, translate and share insights across language boundaries.

At the time, I never could have imagined that, today, our software would be leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence to augment and amplify the work of journalists, public health experts and civil society organizations to respond to information needs during critical civic moments. Nor could I have imagined that my stubborn attachment to the idea of building a kind and creative organization would find me on this stage tonight.

There is a phrase appropriate to the moment: “This means more than you know.” 

It’s very true tonight, but this phrase is also a centering point for the fundamental challenge my organization seeks to address. How do we enable communities to collaborate on the critical civic task of bringing needed context to online content during the moments when this knowledge is most needed?

2024 will be the biggest voting year in the history of democracy. Elections will be held in 76 countries home to some 4.2 billion people. Around the world citizens will be placing votes based on the information available to them. Increasingly, this information will arrive via an encrypted messaging platform like WhatsApp, Telegram or Viber. With no content moderation, these networks are uniquely susceptible to the distribution of disinformation.

Democracy is the operating system for society. Disinformation is a virus in this operating system that impacts virtually every aspect of society, from journalism to public health to the very task of holding an election itself. With the additional perils of journalism in retreat and generative AI moving quickly to fill the void, the global philanthropic community needs to consider the compromise of our information ecosystem as posing an existential threat to humankind. 

So with this remarkably generous recognition of our impossible work, we will continue to toil in code and partnerships to imagine a more hopeful and better-informed future where the work of way-finding that we currently cede to algorithms is instead recentered to communities. I imagine that one day, communities will build and share knowledge tools that allow you to hold up a view of an event in the world and understand how it is that “this means more than you know.” 

To me, this is a wise, empathetic and hopeful view of the internet. Meedan will continue our commitment to modeling a world where the value of knowing what has happened, what is real and what is experienced rises to the surface and accrues to the benefit of the world. Thank you, Skoll, for making this possible.

Want to keep up with the latest news from Meedan? Sign up to receive the Checklist newsletter each month!

Tags
Skoll World Forum
Misinformation
Award

Footnotes

  1. Online conversations are heavily influenced by news coverage, like the 2022 Supreme Court decision on abortion. The relationship is less clear between big breaking news and specific increases in online misinformation.
  2. The tweets analyzed were a random sample qualitatively coded as “misinformation” or “not misinformation” by two qualitative coders trained in public health and internet studies.
  3. This method used Twitter’s historical search API
  4. The peak was a significant outlier compared to days before it using Grubbs' test for outliers for Chemical Abortion (p<0.2 for the decision; p<0.003 for the leak) and Herbal Abortion (p<0.001 for the decision and leak).
  5. All our searches were case insensitive and could match substrings; so, “revers” matches “reverse”, “reversal”, etc.

References

Authors

Words by

No items found.
No items found.
Words by
Organization
Published on
April 22, 2024
April 22, 2024