The Media Literacy Index is an instrument for assessing and ranking societies in their potential for resilience in the face of the post-truth, disinformation, and misinformation (e.g. “fake news”) phenomena. The index was created to help address the issue of societal vulnerability to the negative effects of disinformation such as diminishing public trust, severely polarized politics and societies, and fragmented media, among others.
These issues came to prominence after the US presidential elections in 2016 when the term “post-truth” became Word of the Year of the Oxford Dictionaries. The global Covid-19 pandemic, which started in early 2020 unleashed a new set of problems of disinformation and misinformation – described as an “infodemic” – and Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 intensified the generation and spread of disinformation as an accompanying and often not less important activity to the war.
The Media Literacy Index has been created and published since 2017 by the Open Society Institute – Sofia. Between 2017 and 2021, the index included 35 European countries. Due to considerable interest, 6 countries were added to the index to include 41 countries in total in 2022. In addition, since 2022, the index has an expanded, international version of 47 countries, including countries such as the US and Canada.
The model employs several indicators – the quality of education, media freedom, trust in people, and the usage of new tools of participation. As the indicators have different importance, they are assigned different weights. The index converts the data into standardized scores from 0 to 100 (lowest to highest) and ranks the countries from 1 to 41 (highest to lowest position). The annual editions (with the exception of 2021) allow for year-over-year comparisons of the progress or regress of different countries comparison across indicators. The cluster analyses allow for the grouping of countries with similar characteristics.
The Media Literacy Index has received international attention of research organizations, national and international institutions. The index covered by CNN, BBC, the New York Times, Stern, among others. The UK included it its Online Media Literacy Strategy. MLI has been presented at a forum of organized by Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media in Vienna.
Marin Lessenski, Program Director, European Policies, OSIS