In an era marked by rampant disinformation, propaganda, and decreasing media literacy, the resilience of the younger generation is at stake. Serbia, in particular, faces significant challenges with a growing anti-NATO and anti-EU sentiment among youth. This detrimental attitude contradicts the fact that a large number of Serbian citizens, including young people, have emigrated to NATO and EU countries over the past decade. To address this issue, New Leaders for Stability and Trust initiated a project aimed at enhancing the resilience of Gen Z and Millennials in Serbia and countering the influence of disinformation and propaganda.
The first phase of the project ( September 1st – December 31st, 2021) focused on educating the target audience about security challenges and equipping them with the necessary knowledge, awareness, and tools to counter disinformation. Various strategies were employed to reach different age groups.
Following the success of the first phase, phase 2 (April 2022 – December 2022) continued to address media literacy and disinformation challenges among Gen Z and Millennials. Roundtable conferences and social media outreach were employed to engage the target audience and foster critical thinking.
As the project enters its third part, it aims to build upon the work done in the previous phases with established partners, NATO and CEI. By leveraging these partnerships and collaborating with other NGOs, institutes, and donors, the project will expand its resources, expertise, and reach. Through these collective efforts, the project seeks to provide comprehensive training, resources, and support for young people in Serbia, empowering them to navigate the complex media landscape, critically evaluate information, and counter disinformation effectively.
Phase 1: September 1st – December 31st, 2021
The first phase of the project focused on educating the target audience about security challenges and equipping them with the necessary knowledge, awareness, and tools to counter disinformation. Various strategies were employed to reach different age groups.
Roundtable Zoom Conferences:
Eminent participants and moderators shared insights and addressed critical issues related to Serbia’s integration and media literacy.
1. Fake News and Attitude of Young People Towards Euro-Atlantic Integrations of Serbia
2. Resilience to Fake News: Media Literacy of Youth
3. Resilience of Youth: Influence of Malign Actors on Fake News
Social Media Outreach
We have created two awareness videos about fake news and how to fight them for Gen Z, and published them on TikTok, the platform where they spend most of their time.
On all posts published on all Social Networks hashtag #BuildingResilienceToFakeNews was used.
Two infuencers – Barbi Afrika (3.5 million followers) and Dex Lik (30k followers) talked about how to spot fake news.
That video was shared on two accounts – 916labportal (7250 followers) and BalkanTopStar (34.4k followers).
Two influencers – Miro Cabraja (140.4k followers) and Dex Lik (30k followers) lectured Gen Zers how not to become victims of misinformation.
Finally, two large influencers created “challenge” videos and published them on their channels.
Barbi Afrika (3.5 million followers)
Ancickaa (493.5k followers)
Phase 1 Results
Online viewership and metrics:
- Roundtable conferences generated a total of 15,930 views on YouTube.
- Instagram fact-checking post reached 3,324 people with significant interaction.
- Awareness videos on TikTok received 5,423 views, exceeding expectations.
- Influencer videos gained over 199,000 and 37,600 views, respectively.
- TikTok videos with #BuildingResilienceToFakeNews generated 242.3k views.
Media and Digital Coverage:
- An article on fact-checking and the project was published in Original magazine.
Phase 2: April 2022 – December 2022
Following the success of the first phase, the project continued to address media literacy and disinformation challenges among Gen Z and Millennials.
Roundtable Zoom Conferences:
Three roundtable zoom conferences were held, as planned.
1. Media literacy of Gen Z and Millennials (Medijska pismenost generacije Z i milenijalaca – in Serbian)
2. Media literacy in times of war and recession
3. Spillover of foreign fake news to Serbian public discourse
Social Media Outreach
Three large influencers created engaging and informative videos about fake news and how to see through them for Gen Z, and published them on TikTok and Youtube Shorts, the platforms where they spend most of their time.
The first one, with the nick arsaovde, has 1,1 million followers, lalicmilos has 417,000 followers and maalavestica has 659,700 followers on TikTok. Videos were published on balkantopstar page with 96,900 followers on TikTok and 45,800 subscribers on Youtube.
Phase 2 Results
Online viewership and metrics:
- Roundtable conferences reached 1,634 and 1,757 views, respectively.
- TikTok videos gained over 90,000 and 24,500 views, while YouTube Shorts reached 38,000 and 29,000 views.
The project succeeded in initiating and continuing the debate and education of the younger generation about security challenges in Europe. Through roundtable conferences, informative videos, and social media engagement, the project aimed to build resilience toward negative influences, enhance media literacy, and encourage critical thinking among Gen Z and Millennials.
Looking Ahead: Phase 3 and Expansion
Building on the success of the first two phases, the project plans to enter Phase 3, Building Resilience of Serbia’s Youth to Russian Fake News, and expand its reach to further strengthen the resilience of Gen Z and Millennials in Serbia. The focus of this phase is primarily on resilience to Russian propaganda due to the war in Ukraine and the strong support for Russian actions found in Serbian state controlled media. The upcoming phase will build upon the foundation laid in the previous stages and introduce new strategies and activities to achieve its objectives.
Phase 3 Objectives
Advanced Media Literacy Workshops: The project will organize in-person and online workshops to provide in-depth media literacy training to selected participants. These workshops will focus on critical thinking, source verification, fact-checking, and recognizing different forms of propaganda and disinformation.
Collaborations with Educational Institutions: The project will collaborate with schools, universities, and educational institutions to integrate media literacy programs into the curriculum. This will ensure a sustainable and long-term approach to enhancing media literacy among students.
Youth Empowerment Campaigns: The project will launch empowerment campaigns that encourage young people to become active contributors to the media landscape. This may include initiatives such as creating youth-led fact-checking platforms, organizing hackathons to develop digital tools against disinformation, and supporting youth-led media outlets.
Partnerships with NGOs and Media Organizations: The project will seek partnerships with other NGOs and media organizations to amplify its impact and reach a wider audience. Collaborations may involve joint awareness campaigns, sharing resources and expertise, and organizing events that promote media literacy and counter disinformation.
Research and Evaluation: The project will conduct research to assess the effectiveness of its interventions and identify areas for improvement. Evaluation will be based on metrics such as media literacy levels, changes in attitudes towards disinformation, and the adoption of critical thinking skills among the target audience.
To expand the project’s impact beyond Serbia, the NGO aims to share its knowledge and experiences with other countries facing similar challenges. This can be achieved through collaborations with international organizations, participation in conferences and workshops, and sharing project outcomes and best practices on platforms dedicated to countering disinformation.
Additionally, the project intends to establish partnerships with government institutions and policymakers to advocate for the inclusion of media literacy programs in national education policies. By influencing policy decisions, the project can contribute to a more comprehensive and systematic approach to media literacy and disinformation mitigation at the national level.
The project’s efforts to enhance the resilience of Gen Z and Millennials in Serbia and counter disinformation have shown promising results during the first two phases. By continuing into Phase 3 and expanding its activities, the project aims to make a sustainable and lasting impact on the media literacy levels of young people. By empowering them with critical thinking skills and the ability to navigate the complex media landscape, the project contributes to the development of an informed and resilient generation capable of distinguishing truth from falsehoods.