Everyday expressions can be the key to more responsible media use


Media literacy training, fact-checking, combating disinformation are necessary and effective tools in the fight against disinformation. However, the tools for media literacy and critical thinking can be more and more varied. The educational cartoons created by DIGIRES together with the partner news portal DELFI prove that everyday sayings like: “be attentive, think critically” can also be the key to more responsible media use.

“With the videos, we aim to help the audience understand that misinformation, myths, rumors, propaganda and all the consequences related to it are not the nonsense of politicians, not scientific terms, but a real phenomenon that constantly surrounds us”, says Ieva Ivanauskaitė, head of Business Development of the news portal DELFI in Lithuania.

In total three cartoons were created, representing different disinformation content or floating myth. The purpose of the videos is to develop critical thinking, to encourage people to think about their actions and their consequences for the environment, to be conscious and make decisions based on scientific facts, not emotions. Videos also aim to awaken the need for quality information and news in society and to show how misinformation affects the environment around us, the political system, and public life. The videos invite you not only to be critical when consuming content, but also to encourage the people around you to do the same: friends, family members, relatives.

The videos present well-known topics, easily recognizable situations and examples that show the dangers of making decisions based on emotions. Cartoons have a clear, dynamic narrative line with a beginning, climax and end.

The animation format was not chosen by chance. The developers say they were looking for a solution that was simple, engaging, fun, but also able to clearly illustrate the problem. “That’s how the idea of creating animation was born, because the latter impresses all demographic and social groups. Also, it does not oblige, it relaxes, and people who are tired of the flow of information seek easy content, and when they receive it, they accept the information much more easily”, says I. Ivanauskaitė.

In order to avoid stereotypes or social polarization, forest animal characters were chosen as the main characters instead of humans. “Each animal is the visual equivalent of a certain human being engaged in a similar dialogue. The characters in the videos are easy to understand and embody characteristics that are easily recognizable to everyone: incredulity, fear, courage, curiosity. The bear is chosen to represent a person with a clumsy mindset who lacks critical thinking and believes in conspiracy theories. Crow is able to “croak” unverified facts to others.

A dog is a clever, cold-hearted animal. Such archetypes of animals come from fairy tales or cartoons familiar to every viewer, so they are close and clear”, says Saulius Žvirgždas, the Creative Director of the news portal DELFI in Lithuania.

The speech of the characters is full of word games and expressions characteristic of the Lithuanian language. Each video has key phrases about disinformation, adapted to the corresponding character. For example, the phrase “information from an unverified source does a disservice” belongs to bear, the phrase “someone croaked plenty of unverified facts” is for a crow, and “misinformation is hard to smell, but possible” is for a dog.

According to I. Ivanauskaitė, both the easy form of content presentation and recognizable behavior patterns help each viewer identify with the content and understand it through the prism of their own experiences. “The non-traditional format of the video clips, the use of humor, the phrases matching the characters and the simplified language lead to greater attention of the audience, stay longer in the memory and thus contribute to more responsible media use”, says S. Žvirgždas.

These short and engaging videos are intended for a general public and can be used in media literacy training, group discussions, etc.

See the videos here!

“The golden tasks” of MIL rely on discovery, lived experiences, and reflection


Get more inspiration and resources from the summary of the first BaltsTeachMIL Zoominar

Estonian political parties see TikTok as a gateway to youth

Gretel Juhansoo


Every fifth inhabitant in the Baltic states uses TikTok, Kantar Emor data shows. Still, not all political parties in Estonia have created an official account on one of the most popular social media apps today. The parties that have joined TikTok see it as a way to reach young people but fear the security problems associated with the platform.

As a result of the 2023 Estonian parliament elections that took place at the beginning of March, coalition discussions are held between three liberal parties: Reformierakond, Sotsiaaldemokraatlik erakond and Eesti 200. All of the mentioned parties have an official TikTok account.

Eesti 200 is one of the youngest political parties in Estonia, and it’s also the most active on TikTok. They joined TikTok in August of 2021 and have since made over 100 posts, gaining over 35 thousand likes across their profile. The party’s head of digital marketing, Joanna Veeremaa, said that in 2021, a 17-year-old member of Eesti 200 youth organisation Noor Eesti 200 had recommended using TikTok to reach people their age. “Because Eesti 200 is a youth-oriented party, we decided to go along with the idea,” Veeremaa said.

Eesti 200, who has 1570 followers on TikTok, has followed many trendy video concepts, including the “Heartbroken” trend. The caption reads “When they say that politics are boring (heartbroken emoji)” Source: @200tiktokis on TikTok

The youth isn’t only on TikTok

Veeremaa explained that the main reason for using TikTok is to make politics more understandable to the youth and to get more people to use their right to vote. “We don’t necessarily focus on getting them [young people] to vote for us; the priority has always been making politics an enjoyable topic,” she said. Based on the feedback Eesti 200 got during and after the election week, Veeremaa noted that they reached their goal of bringing young people closer to politics.

The winner of the latest elections, Reformierakond, has posted four TikTok videos, the first dating back to October of last year. However, the head of Reformierakond’s digital channels, Karoliina Lorenz, said the party doesn’t have a separate communication plan for TikTok. “We mostly focus on Facebook because we have the largest following there,” said Lorenz.

Lorenz also believes that TikTok is a way to reach the youth. “But so is Instagram,” she added. Because the party’s communication team already puts work into communicating with young people through Instagram by making audiovisual content, they decided to share the same videos on TikTok.

But how do Instagram and TikTok differ? Lorenz said that a TikTok video has a higher chance of reaching an international audience. “I have noticed many more negative comments or just spam under the videos,” she added. Because Reformierakond tries to keep an upbeat comment section under its social media content, TikTok can be a challenging platform to keep clear of negativity.

But there is also a positive difference between the two social media apps. „Thanks to TikTok, we can reach people living in and outside of Estonia and bring politics to the platform that they are already on,“ Lorenz said.

Sotsiaaldemokraatlik erakond has 622 followers on their official TikTok account. Their first video dates back to December 2022 and the caption reads “Sotsid (the memebers of the party, G.J) came out of the closet. PS! This is not clickbait!l Source: @sotsdem on TikTok

TikTok makes politics an accessible topic to all

The liberal party Sotsiaaldemokraatlik erakond appeared on TikTok at the end of last year. They have since made 21 posts following trendy video concepts, showing their day-to-day activities and using clips from their members’ interviews. “Our goal is to show everyone that politicians are people, too,” said the party’s head of marketing, Kätriin Avarlaid.

Because the party has been on TikTok for only three months, there isn’t a separate strategy for the platform. “We are still experimenting, so it’s more like if something seems interesting enough to post, we do it,” said Avarlaid. “Some ideas have just come from scrolling on the app, but frequently we see intriguing interview clips of our members that could interest our audience.”

Still, the communication is mainly targeted towards a younger audience. “The political communication in Estonia is largely serious, so we decided to make it more accessible to the younger generation by using TikTok,” said Avarlaid.

During the election week, Reformierakond posted a TikTok of the Estonian prime minister inviting everyone to use their right to vote. The head of Reformierakond’s digital channels Karoliina Lorenz said that the video was framed like a FaceTime call to provide a more personal message. Reformierakond has 1353 followers on their official TikTok account. @eesti_reformierakond on TikTok

Is it safe?

At the end of 2022, the Estonian Information System Authority (RIA) warned that people shouldn’t be using TikTok on work phones because the app collects a lot more data than is needed. In addition, that data is stored outside the European Union.

All of the Estonian coalition parties are aware of RIA’s instructions. Sotsiaaldemokraatlik erakond has gotten letters from citizens who are worried about the party using TikTok, said Kätriin Avarlaid. “People have asked if we aren’t afraid of using our [TikTok] account because of all the data leak and hacking risks.” Avarlaid added that the party’s communication team follows RIA’s instructions, and the app is never used on politicians’ work phones.

But the risks associated with TikTok can be a reason or at least one of the reasons for deciding against creating an official TikTok account for the political party. A member of the management board for Eestimaa Rohelised, Liina Freivald, said that the most significant threat with using TikTok is the uncertainty of where the data goes. “We also don’t want to support a big authoritarian country (China, G.J.) that hasn’t claimed all the basic, important human rights,” Freivald said.

Birgit Remiküll, a member of the youngest conservative party in Estonia, Parempoolsed, said that although the main reason for the party’s absence on TikTok is the lack of funding, the cybersecurity threats have also been a part of deciding against joining it.

For the largest political party in Estonia, Keskerakond, the main reason for not joining TikTok has been a lack of an expert for the job, said the party’s head of communication Andres Kalvik. “We have also read about the [RIA’s] warnings, but I don’t think that there is a need to ring the alarm because there haven’t been any known problems associated with cyber security issues on TikTok in Estonia,” said Kalvik. „But I think that everyone must consider these risks before joining [TikTok].“

The political parties EKRE and Isamaa didn’t respond to the author’s requests to do an interview.

The article focuses on political parties’ official TikTok accounts. Communication strategies can also involve politicians’ own TikTok accounts.

All data was collected on March 25th 2023.

This article was a follow-up to the BECID WP2 deliverable “Analytical report on Baltic disinformation trends“:

Is TikTok a Gateway to Politics in the Baltics? For Now, Only in Latvia

Latvia is the first of the Baltic states where a TikTok party has been elected to parliament. Before the elections, their star was an unemployed young woman with a high-school diploma, but her videos had received millions of likes. Even though the number of TikTok users is fairly similar in all of the Baltic states, in Latvia the platform is used by populist politicians spreading Kremlin-friendly messages. It doesn’t play a role in politics in Estonia and Lithuania yet.

Turbulent histories have made the Balts more resilient to propaganda but we are not magically immune to disinformation

Maria Murumaa-Mengel

Baltic Engagement Centre for Combating Information Disorders (BECID) has just kicked off and we start our series of blog posts with a brief overview – why the world needs another knowledge and action hub and how are the Baltics both, unique and universal. Maia Klaassen is junior research fellow in media literacy at the University of Tartu and the heart of BECID. Maia has coordinated the centre’s coming to life and is the person who gets the most “Excuse me, could you tell me where/who/what…” type of inquiring emails about the hub. It makes sense that we kick off with a short interview with Maia. 

Why do we need such an action and knowledge hub that Baltic Engagement Centre for Combating Information Disorders is?

Well, for many years we didn’t need BECID! So one might argue you could still continue on, everyone in their own corners, doing their own little thing and hoping that somehow this larger strategic picture would end up playing into the smaller actions. 

What we have discovered, for example, regarding strategically manipulated harmful narratives – they don’t really stop at the border of Estonia or, say, Latvian border. In reality, we have found is that many of disinformative narratives that are being used to manipulate the public opinion actually are kind of identical in very different parts of the world. You just can see the change of very small details, but mostly it is copy-paste. 

A really simple example would be how in the beginning of the new wave of aggression that Russia took against Ukraine, there was loads of disinformation in the form of gossip – “Oh, we have these refugees that peed into our corridors”. This was a narrative that was present at once and you could map the very same narrative in 7 or 8 countries during the first day. 

It is not a coincidence, it is not an “Estonian issue”, but rather a targeted narrative for our whole region. Hence regional cooperation could ensure that instead of everyone sitting in their own corners and duplicating the work, we can cooperate, share materials and best practices while lightening the load for individuals. 

The three Baltic countries – are they different from each other? And to see the bigger picture – are the Baltics somehow different from the rest of Europe or the world?

In the context of information resilience and developing resilience to disinformation narratives. We have a lot of similarities. But you can already see, even from our demographic composition, that there will be some differences. For example, Estonia and Latvia have quite a high amount of Russian-speaking locals, but in Lithuania it’s less than 5%. So of course, our approaches to Kremlin disinformation can not and are not the same. 

And you can also see the differences in our strategic documents, which I think is quite interesting. Estonia talks about information resilience as a concept that has mostly to do with how our information environment currently is. Lithuania has built it up much more on information security and talks about how information influences national security. Latvia is somewhere in between the two, like the geographical position. In that sense, you can see that we have different vulnerable groups, demographics, strategies, approaches, and language.

That being said, we also share a lot. History binds us – anyone who has been part of the USSR looks at propaganda, censorship, keeping information from the people, in a very different way. It is directly connected to our freedom, right? So it makes a tricky background. Again, an example – regulating the use of hate speech and symbols, like Nazi symbolics and ideology. We didn’t have regulation before but now we finally do. Threat to our information environment was finally substantial enough to make that move. 

Our reactions are probably different from Western Europe because we have different histories, experiences, and understandings of what happened. Still those differences are not so big that we would have a completely different approach. Turbulent times in history, for example, have probably made our journalists, security forces, defense experts, anyone really, more resilient. But the Baltics are definitely not magically immune to disinformation. 

We are in a global crisis, it is a question of how the small differences and the knowledge about these details can benefit a larger community. 

What is the one thing, a piece of knowledge you would like for all people to know, be aware of?

One thing that I have found mildly upsetting sometimes, is the understanding that combatting disinformation can somehow be done with massive political and societal support. Let me explain. I completely agree with Italian Digital Media Observatory director Gianni Riotta, who said recently in a speech that “we are not being attacked enough and that means we are not doing well enough”. 

The sad truth of the day, a somewhat disheartening reality check, is that if you are doing well in our field, you should be under constant troll-attacks, from bots, politicians, activists, etc. We are probably not stepping on enough toes, not doing enough to upset people who pay money, or put in other resources to produce these narratives and disinformation. So this is a valuable thought for me and it could be useful for others who are trying to make a change for the better. 

The lack of attacks shows that we should be doing more. It is also a question of how big of a crisis do we perceive to be happening at the moment? In my opinion, with all of our hubs and centers – we really should have climbed over a hill already, but in reality we are just gearing up for the climb. The main positive thing is that we are relentless. Big interwoven organisations and systems take time to gear up but when they do, they can bring huge positive societal changes.

About Maia Klaassen

Maia Klaassen is a Junior Research Fellow in Media Literacy at the University of Tartu, and the main focus of her job as well as her research is in trying to improve resilience to informational influencing  in our societies. Maia teaches subjects related to information disorders and coordinates Media and Information Literacy projects, both as a project writer and trainer. Besides BECID, she is also a part of the team working on the  1 year MA program called Disinformation and Societal Resilience as well as the program manager for the Information Resilience micro degree. Besides project management and teaching, she represents Estonians in several Baltic networks, such as the Baltic MIL Round Table summoned by Deutsche Welle and the Open Information Partnership (as the head of the Estonian Digital Research Center, NGO EDRC).