On January 26-27, 2023, the kick-off meeting of the international project to create the Bulgarian-Romanian Observatory for Digital Media (BROD) took place in Sofia. In it, the “Big Data for Smart Society” – GATE Institute – at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” heads a regional hub for combating disinformation. The project is funded by the European Health and Digital Executive Agency. Its coordinator is GATE and it includes 11 other partners from five European countries, including Agence France-Presse and Bulgarian National Television. Its duration is until May 31, 2025.
The project aims to create a multinational, multi-stakeholder, and multidisciplinary regional hub for detecting, analysing and combating disinformation circulating in Bulgaria and Romania. BROD hub will offer world-leading expertise, locally adapted multilingual tools, and capabilities for rapid detection and analysis of disinformation campaigns and will contribute to the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) work.
The partners from Vitosha Research EOOD (Bulgaria) hosted the two-day meeting, where the partner organizations presented their expertise and their contribution to the project.
“This project is extremely important for us, as it confirms the role of the Institute as the main driver in the region for introducing innovations. We stand firmly behind the cause of providing professionals with better tools to detect disinformation and increase citizens’ media literacy. Our commitment stems from the social significance of this topic,” said the director of GATE, Prof. Silvia Ilieva.
“For the first time, a structure is starting to be built in which anyone who has an interest in the topic of disinformation can join. These are media, academic institutions and technology companies, and people involved in media and information literacy education. The goal is to create a network for detecting and countering disinformation,” said Assoc. Prof. Milena Dobreva, head of research at BROD.
As a side event to the project kick-off meeting, a “round table” was organized to discuss the 2022 European Commission’s Code of Practice on Disinformation, aimed at wider cooperation on solutions to the problem of disinformation and the involvement of technology companies at the backbone of digital media. The forum was opened by Prof. Mariya Stoycheva, Deputy Rector of Sofia University. The participants were welcomed by Blagovest Kirov, Deputy Minister of e-Government, Cvetan Kyulanov, Head of the EC Representation in Bulgaria, Dr Gabriela Naplatanova-Ruseva, member of Council for Electronic Media and Prof. Silvia Ilieva, director of the GATE Institute. They highlighted the importance of the topic of countering misinformation and congratulated GATE for the timely initiative.
The Romanian partners of the BROD project presented the Romanian perspective of the Code and the main challenges in relation to its implementation. The possibilities for the Code’s action in Bulgarian conditions were commented on by experts who emphasized the media, legal, educational and technological aspects. Among the participants in the forum were Dr Maria Yurukova, a researcher at the Department of European Studies at Sofia University and advisor to the President on domestic policy and civil society, and Maria Cheresheva from the Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria. Prof. Kalina Boncheva, a guest researcher at GATE, presented the topic of the impact of the Code from a scientific point of view, and Vladimir Petkov, from Identrics, expressed the view of the IT industry. It was stated that for the application of the Code, it is necessary for its provisions to become part of the national legislation, and for the media to start using it in their practical activities.
The event brought together more than 50 participants.
Video: BROD partners and their role in the project