Time to Tweet Right!

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Twitter International in collaboration with AUC launched an academic competition for the first time in Egypt and the Middle East. The #TweetRight competition allowed students to create a Twitter account and tweet creatively to identify misinformation and fake news -- a key theme in this year's Common Reading Experience (CRE) Fahrenheit 451.

Highlighting how fake news travels fast is what made a team of five freshmen students: Freddy Eskaros, Carol Zaki, Joy Wanis, Farah Abdelsalam and Rola Amro win the competition. They created the Twitter account @Justnewsauc and focused on raising awareness about the importance of checking the credibility of news before sharing it. Their approach was creative and engaging, and they were the most active of all the competing teams. The winning team received a Twitter MENA Innovation Award and $5,000 Twitter for Goods Ads Grant.

The five students created an account that reported fake news, yet in the biography, they mentioned that the account is not a trusted source. “We found that some retweeted the news we created as jokes and some others actually believed them,” said Eskaros. “The main problem that we face on social media is that people believe anything they read even if it is a joke,” he added.

The second prize went to team @PowerKnowledge7, who also received a Twitter MENA Innovation Award. Their main idea was to spread real and correct information about problems in Egypt like water scarcity and Female Genital Mutilation. The team was comprised of four freshmen students: Lucinda Fahmy, Aya Elshenawy, Mayada Metwaly and Salma Yassin. “I am really happy because we didn’t expect to win. We felt it was our responsibility to spread correct information, and after winning the second prize we feel more responsible and we will continue to raise awareness about Egypt’s problems and the means to address them,” Fahmy said.

The judging panelists were George Salama ‘05, head of Twitter Public Policy, Government & Philanthropy for the Middle East and North Africa region and Stefanie Felsberger, senior researcher at AUC’s Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D). Salama believes that the collaboration between Twitter and AUC puts a spotlight on the importance of digital literacy as a key component in the education of youth. “Through this project, we aimed at developing the digital literacy skills of the students by focusing mainly on fighting the spread of misinformation and helping them understand how to be responsible online.”

The competition took place on March 24 for three consecutive days. Doris Jones, director of AUC’s Common Reading Experience (CRE) highlighted how the CRE's collaboration with Twitter has allowed students to share reading experiences on a scale and in a fashion that would not previously have been possible. “Reading is foundational for all learning, and this competition further highlighted changing reading practices in the age of online social networking and pinpoints a particular time during AUC's Centennial year that opens new vistas about the spread of knowledge, education, culture and ideology,” she added.

The impact of digitizing the CRE and introducing the social media component to the reading experience has proved beneficial, as Jones explained that students have been more engaged with Fahrenheit 451 because the text is an e-book, which allowed the CRE to distribute the text to hundreds of students and enabled students to read the book on their smartphones and other digital devices. “Having Twitter as a partner places a spotlight on our chosen text, Fahrenheit 451, while also allowing our students to utilize social media as an opportunity to build a community of discussants around the text,” she added.

While Twitter previously provided a Digital Literacy workshop with AUC’s A2K4D, this is Twitter’s first time launching an academic competition in Egypt and the MENA region. “With the #TweetRight competition, our focus was to engage with students directly by addressing a present-day challenge. We look forward to increased collaborations with AUC, specifically on more student-focused programs,” said Salama.