WJC2024 conference: Should journalists welcome Artificial Intelligence, fear it, or both?

Conference Two at the World Journalists Conference 2024 (Phoito: WJC2024)

Participants in Conference Two at the World Journalists Conference 2024 (Phoito: WJC2024)

By Habib Toumi

SEOUL: The second conference of the World Journalists Conference (WJC2024) in the Korean capital Seoul piqued my interest. It was a far cry from the first one that addressed “The Role of the Media in War Journalism and World Peace”, but failed to include any speaker from the Middle East, the region where the current conflict has claimed the lives of more than 100 journalists, including Palestinians, Israelis, and Lebanese. Scores were also injured, reported missing and arrested.

The second conference “Navigating the Horizon: AI Journalism and the Future of Media” was my favorite because Elena Sánchez Nicolás, President (Journalist), AEJ Belgium, Belgium, Leonardo Casas, Deputy Director, BioBioChile, Chile, Ray Minseong KIM. Head of Media Strategy & H-LAB, Korea Daily, Korea, and Pensopa Sukontarak, Senior Reporter, Thairath, Thailand, debated the merits of Artificial Intelligence in a very interesting way.

The debate offered genuine examples and concrete models of the advantages and disadvantages of AI, spreading from “Go ahead and make the most of it”, to “Yes, use AI, but with great caution”, and generated numerous responses from the audience.

Elena Sánchez Nicolás (Photo: WJC2024)

Elena Sánchez Nicolás (Photo: WJC2024)

In circles following the conference, journalists continued their discussions and used factual examples to reinforce their arguments.

There was a lot to share by journalists coming from Asia, Europe and the Americas and the exchange of positive and negative experiences was one of the high points of the annual conference that addresses global media perspectives regarding several issues.

Everyone seemed to be motivated to know more about how the revolutionary influence of artificial intelligence (AI) is driving the profound transformation of the dynamic social media landscape.

The latest statistics are staggering: Around 4.9 billion individuals worldwide are actively engaged on social media. By 2027, the figure is expected to reach approximately 5.85 billion users.

The emergence of social networks is one of the most critically important manifestations of the information age with its digital revolution and communication technologies that marked, several decades ago, the beginning of the post-industrial era.

Leonardo Casas (Photo: WJC2024)

Leonardo Casas (Photo: WJC2024)

This emergence on a global scale was reinforced by an unprecedented wide spread of portable electronic devices connected to the Internet, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones.

This development has led to asserting a new reality – the adoption of these communication means as reliable channels for knowledge and as advanced platforms for expressing personal opinions and individually-shaped speeches.

As a result, every view, opinion, idea, suggestion and communicative action has become an integral component within the free sphere of expression and has gained a meaning within the scope of digital change.

This has led to a spectacular transition of the news away from print, television and radio into digital spaces and a new status for social media as the main source of information.

According to statistics published by the Pew Research Center, 86% of Americans say “they often or sometimes get news from a smartphone, computer or tablet. The figure was 49% in 2022 and 51% in 2021.

Should journalists welcome this new reality and adapt to it or should they resist it with whatever they can?

Pensopa Sukontarak (Photo: WJC2-24)

Pensopa Sukontarak (Photo: WJC2-24)

Leonardo CASAS, Deputy Director of BioBioChile, Chile, said. that journalism has been exposed to many changes throughout its history.

“Among the most recent are the transition from typewriters to computers, adopting the internet, the irruption of smartphones with cameras, instant messaging, photo editing software, social networks, among many others,” he told the conference.

“Each of these could have been seen as a threat at the time, challenging the status quo and transforming the way journalism is conceived. But all of these elements have become useful tools for our work. Today, the question should not be if we want to adopt artificial intelligence in journalism… but how.”

Elena Sánchez Nicolás, President of AEJ Belgium, highlighted how journalists can make their choice.

“With AI, like with any new technological development profoundly impacting the media sector, whether journalism can adapt and survive probably hinges on the capacity of journalists and media organizations to strike the right balance between embracing the full benefits of this technology and addressing its potential ethical implications and risks,” Elena said at the conference.

“Whether the use of AI is beneficial or harmful to journalism can depend on many factors, including the degree of use, the quality of the software, the impact on editorial independence, the skills of the journalist using the technology, and the editor’s ability to maintain journalistic standards and ethical considerations.”

Elena reflected the sentiments of most journalists present in the hall and in other places across the globe where the debate is raging.

However, many have already chosen to “get along and go along,” arguing there are no real options otherwise., especially that AI’s rapidly amazing capabilities has led to debates over what the future of their job looks like.

Elena said that a survey covering options from 120 editors, journalists, technologies and media-makers from 105 small and large newsrooms across 46 countries, found that around 80% of respondents expect an increased use of AI in their newsrooms – especially for fact-checking and disinformation analysis, summarization, content personalization and

automation and chatbots that can carry out preliminary interviews and gauge public sentiment around certain issues.

Ray Minseong KIM (Photo: WJC2024)

Ray Minseong KIM (Photo: WJC2024)

Journalists in various countries say they are aware of how this stunning transformation in information and communication technology, from lurking at the edges to taking center stage, is having a profound impact on all aspects of life- politics, business, education, entertainment, leisure …

At the same time, this progress has led to radical changes in the concepts of privacy, identity, rights, freedoms …

The expansive use of social media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, has empowered users to have their voices heard and to interact with others anywhere, at a low cost and with greater privacy.

The use of anonymizing technology, VoIP platforms, overseas internet service providers, masking identities or hiding the sources of the communication, to interconnect on social media has also provided wider options for privacy.

Naturally, controversy over the permissible and the prohibited from an ethical perspective followed and it is deepening …

Some people argue that anonymizing technology has an ominous role in encouraging hate speeches and in offering avenues for radicalization with incendiary content, harassment, threats and misinformation.

However, others stress that the technical option of anonymity provides those who fight authoritarian regimes and abuses with a tribune to disseminate their ideas without fear of reprisal.

In her presentation, Elena warned that “as AI becomes increasingly integrated into daily practices, there is a need to reflect these developments in ethical guidelines tailored to the use of AI tools in journalism, and in a way that journalists and media organizations can ensure fairness, transparency, and accountability.”

There seems to be no end to the controversy over the challenges and opportunities of social media supercharged by advanced technologies in providing a threats-accelerated landscape that emboldens wrongdoers as well a possibilities-enhanced stage that empowers rightdoers.

This peculiar situation calls for a thorough scrutinization of the role of social media, especially AI, in the major issues and conflicts across the globe and on how they may be used to assist those seeking disruptions or those dedicated to protecting “ethical values.”

Social media stands accused of being misused as a weapon for recruitment and propaganda. It may be used to influence democracies and reveal their inconsistency and the contradictions of official narratives, and to criticize the work of institutions.

Social media can also reflect the depth of the interference of those on the margins in the public activity of the center, in addition to their role in framing and narrating the events in a way that exceeds by far the traditional media approach.


“Social media bots and algorithmic manipulation can be exploited by malicious actors to manipulate public opinion, undermining trust in reliable sources of information such as media outlets or institutions,” Elena said.

“In addressing these risks, fact-checking, verification, and transparency must be prioritized. But concerns remain, especially regarding the exponential growth and power of AI to rapidly produce millions of messages, instantly amplifying verifiable lies.”

She warned that “the rise of AI technologies has also triggered significant risks beyond technological or ethical concerns, posing threats that can undermine democracy and societal stability.”

“One may argue that the proliferation of deepfakes and the AI-powered spread of fake news are some of the most pressing challenges facing journalism today.”

Deep fakes are AI-generated videos or voice recordings, that convincingly portray people, usually famous, or politicians, saying or doing things they never said or did.

Maybe the best option for journalists and other people is to deal with Artificial Intelligence and its enhanced technologies while remaining vigilant about it and ensuring that it is used with the adequate safeguards to avoid its potentially catastrophic consequences.

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