Between Polarization and Proliferation

December 15 2014 | 09:28 AM

On December 13, 2014, The May Chidiac Foundation – Media Institute and Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES) held the “Free Connected Minds” conference under the patronage of his Excellency Mr. Boutros Harb, Lebanese Minister of Telecommunications.

The first panel tackled law enforcement vs. the Free-Minded Citizen: Is any kind of content regulation on the internet accepted, in the spirit of enhancing its credibility? How far can electronic law enforcement go before infringing on human liberties and personal freedom? To what extent can electronic commerce and contracts be protected? Whistle blowing: constructive leaks or destructive propaganda?              

 Gabriel Deek, Vice President of the Internet Society (ISOC) Lebanon Chapter moderation the session, which included the panelists Korieh Duodu; Advocate with Bentsi-Enchill Letsa and Ankomah (Accra, Ghana),Major Suzan Hajj Hobeiche; Head of the Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau-Alison, Bethel McKenzie; Executive Director of the International Press Institute, and Jillian York; Director of International Freedom of Expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Following panel, Sherine Tadros, the Middle East Correspondent for Sky News, moderated the session entailing the challenges of traditional media – between polarization and proliferation. The following points were central to this session: How is traditional media dealing with the onset of new digital media? A complementary or a substitute? With the increase of transparency with social media, to what extent can traditional media still be polarized and politicized? What is the extent of reliability of social media sources versus traditional media and how do ethics come into play? Do journalists lose their independence when they work for a media institution with a shareholder or political agenda? Do social media provide journalists with a more open platform to exercise their free thought?

The speakers were: Ali Jaber; Group TV Director of MBC, Ahmed Shihab Eldin; Emmy-Nominated Journalist, Mohamad Mourad; Managing Director in the Middle East & North Africa at Google, and Rana Sabbagh; Executive Director of Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism.

2013’s conference dazzled the audience with the results of a crowdwritten story through online contributions. The sessions was entitled: “Crowd writing: the Power of the Collective Minds”. The experiment focused on the notion of collaboration, brought by connectivity and online openness. The concept was to show the ability of the public to collectively create a novel/fiction online. People submitted parts of a story on a public Facebook page: the lead writer posted guidelines, a structure, a story line and questions/writing requests and people submitted their part of the story. The lead writer then selected the best out of them to create a novel. The Lebanese Novelists Najwa Barakat and Jabbour Douaihy commented on the collective effort and expressed their admiration towards such an attempt and congratulated MCF on the wonderful story.

The conference ended with panel four, which elaborated on connectivity, smart life, and the impact of connectivity on the quality of everyday life.

Our special guests included Anousheh Ansari, CEO & Co-Founder of Prodea, and the first private astronaut from the Middle East as well as Stephane Bazan, Head of Consulting and Research @ Keeward Web Science and Open Data Evangelist (USJ/ISOC).

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