Diana Schnetgöke


Girls Day meets media literacy: recognizing and understanding fake profiles

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2022 Girls Day Taking part: Laura Zimmermann, dual student; Mia, 16 years old, passionate social media user; Andreas Wentz, tribe lead and hyperautomation expert at T-Systems, and Doro de Weerdt, communications and marketing expert in the hyperautomation team and reserved social media user. Session topic: Media literacy

portrait of a young girl

Hi, I'm Mia. Did you recognize me as a Social Media fake profile?

What exactly is media literacy? Can you learn it like you would English vocab, mathematical formulae, and historical dates and contexts? Yes, from our experience. And just to be safe, we brought educational experts from Maria im Tann along for the ride too to get our experiment started.

Doro, you prepared something extra special for this Girls Day session. Who is Mia?

Doro: To get straight to the point, there is no Mia. At least, not as we presented her or how she presented herself. We “built” Mia and made her biography up, as well as her social media profile. We gave her a face and a voice. Mia was there. Just like the more than 20 girls aged 11 to 16 who took part in our virtual session for 2022 Girls Day. We first got them up to speed by doing things such as a questionnaire on their individual approaches to social media.

How did the participants react to the “fake” Mia? What message did you want to get across with Mia?

Doro: There was a good back and forth right from the start – the girls were open-minded and interested in the topic. Then came the big shock, which soon became clear thanks to the video conference: there was no Mia. Together with the message: take care and look out for yourselves, don’t just instinctively trust a friendly face, pleasant voice or social media profile that could even be one of your own. Be alert! And that's precisely what we talked about.

Andreas Wentz was able to show us in the space of a few minutes just how little time it takes for someone with a few skills to put together a fake profile and use automation to take it up a notch and make it deceptively realistic. A range of apps were first needed to disguise the person’s face and adjust their voice. This was all so successful that Mia was simply accepted and taken seriously as part of the team of experts by the girls in our session.

How important is media literacy when dealing with social media?

Doro: The feedback confirmed what Denis Thielen and Katja Illigens from Maria im Tann predicted: media literacy is something you can learn and which absolutely needs to be taught, ideally as a school subject.
Sometimes a little shock can be helpful too. Especially since we found out during the discussion while sharing experiences that a number of “Mias” had already popped up on the social media channels of the 11-16 year old girls who took part in our sessions. And by no means did these “Mias” have tomorrow’s test in mind... 

Media literacy is very important to us

Calling all parents and teachers! Our “reif” magazine education materials can help you teach about media literacy in an entertaining manner which is suited to the target group.

Here is an overview of other initiatives concerning media literacy.

You're currently working in the Hyperautomation unit. Give us a quick explanation of how this relates to your experiment.

Doro: Automation simplifies workflows and provides support in adhering to regulations and standards. Deutsche Telekom offers a wide range of solutions for this. We want and need to understand automation. Ultimately it is humans who tell robots what to do, who are in control of the automation and responsible for it. The fact that we managed to convey both of these topics to the girls in just one session, two topics that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with one another at first glance, is all thanks to the girls themselves who were so open-minded and critical.