The Creation of "Digital Illiteracy": How Platforms Favour Disinformation and Hate Speech

Aye Min Thant

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and features editor for Frontier Myanmar, Aye Min Thant, is going to speak about platforms and their creation of the"digitally illiterate user". She is going to focus on how this unfolds in Myanmar, but also how these dynamics replicate disinformation, information silos, and hate speech around the world.

Instead of expanding slowly and with cultural and risk awareness, global tech companies have been rushing into what they see as frontier countries, only to be shocked and appalled when they are implicated in something like the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar.

Then, in their rush to absolve themselves of responsibility, they propagate this idea of the "digitally illiterate user": a framing that allows giant tech companies to externalise the risks of their business decisions onto the rest of the world. The “digitally illiterate user” — somehow just literate enough to use these products irresponsibly — allows these companies to act as if they haven’t been moving fast and breaking things. Indeed, this allows these companies to portray themselves as generous saviours when they devote a minuscule percent of their revenue on initiatives to educate the illiterate. These practices obscure the ways in which their products, optimised to maximise engagement (and therefore profit), are designed to reward harmful behaviour. But we are not just seeing these problems in Myanmar. The same issues of disinformation, information silos, and hate speech are replicated (at different scales) around the whole world.  

Picture of Aye Min Thant standing in front a brick wall
Features Editor at Frontier Myanmar