In connection with the work on the NEMO project - Using the "new" media for training and tackling online discrimination against migrants, our team produced a national report on Internet misinformation, migrant issues in Bulgaria and how to deal with prejudices and stereotypes.

Bulgarian online space (as a target of NEMO project) seems to contain more online hate speech than some other European Union member states. The citizens of Bulgaria are less likely to be in contact with foreigners due to the significantly lower number of foreigners in the country, and therefore are less likely to reduce their prejudices and stereotypes, which also affects their expression of hate in cyberspace.

Nevertheless, our country has a clear institutional framework regarding the migration process. Of course, the wide network of NGOs is also essential.

The project NEMO team put forward the following objectives with the elaboration of this report:

  • To identify the main forms and manifestations of discrimination of third-country nationals
  • To contribute to enlarge the current literature on the issue of fake news and its relationship with discrimination, thought a specific target, not well studied in literature, children aged 11-14, especially in the reference country.
  • To gain a better understanding on the use of digital media by target groups in particular in relation to the diffusion of fake news and their capability to evaluate the quality of the sources
  • To collect qualitative information on the level of awareness of target groups on misinformation on third country nationals, stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination and on their responses to the phenomenon
  • To collect information in order to build a toolkit and a methodology that try to fix some of the main elements that will emerge by the analysis

The report provides detailed information on the profile of migrants in Bulgaria - age, origin, number, etc. The document also provides an overview of the media environment, which makes it clear that its condition is significantly worsened, with misinformation and fake news being a problem with growing influence, and children most often affected. The increasing use of the Internet and the earlier age at which children access the network are key factors for its impact and importance in their lives. It is therefore quite possible for them to easily become targets of discrimination, stereotypes and prejudices.

Here it is especially important to pay attention to the representatives of minority groups - Armenians, Jews, Pomaks, Roma. And to the institutions and people involved in them - Roma leaders, evangelical churches, Islamic schools and the educational standards used in them. In this case, what is important is how these communities are shown by the media and what are the measures and best practices through which public discourse could change.

The second part of the report is based on a series of interviews conducted in the period April - May 2019 in the capital of Bulgaria - Sofia. The interviews were conducted by a team of experts from the Council of Refugee Women in Bulgaria with students between 11 and 14 years of age, parents and teachers.

For the purpose of the survey, 12 students were interviewed - 6 girls and 6 boys, 6 teachers - 3 women and 3 men and 4 mothers. The survey shows that Instagram is the champion among all social networks. Interviews discuss what teens find disturbing on the web and how they handle content they don't want to witness. Students do not know the meaning of words as prejudice” or stereotype. It turns out, however, that they are often witnesses of hate speech. Some students say they changed their minds after receiving more information, even though they did not seek it intentionally. This leads to the conclusion that providing more information, incl. better visual information is important: children can see what they lack when they form their opinion and most of all - they need an alternative perspective.

Teachers are aware of the social networks their students use and how they communicate in different chat groups. Parents, on the other hand, believe that their children use the Internet primarily to connect and share. They have set limits and boundaries that are different for each family and for each child's personality. All parents believe that their children are incapable of making a clear distinction between fake news and real facts and information. Both teachers and parents have access to an online environment and act as mediators who translate the messages distributed on the Internet into accessible language for children so that they can understand which messages are good and which are bad.

The report also highlights the similarities and differences between the interviewed groups, as well as a multicultural guide to good practices against misinformation, migration and fake news.

You can read more about the document itself here in PDF format.