Student Awards
14 September 2020

Younes Zangiabadi’s Thought-Provoking Essay Finishes in Top 20 at St. Gallen Symposium

Younes Zangiabadi, originally from Iran, recently obtained his Master in International Affairs with a major in Global Security and a minor in International Trade. His essay on “Freedom of Expression on Social Media”, which he submitted to the 50th St. Gallen Global Essay Competition, was one of 20 selected out of 1,000 contributions that proposed a thought-provoking idea. This year’s Symposium was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  

This theme for the 50th St. Gallen Symposium was “Freedom Revisited”, in which participants were asked to write essays on various aspects of freedom that need to be either defended or recalibrated to meet the challenges of our time. 

In my essay, I discuss how the historical phenomenon of disinformation has revolutionised and proliferated with the rise of social media and digital news, dividing societies into two major camps: those that fight over the right balance of the freedom of speech, and protecting democratic institutions that safeguard it. 

In order to defend these indispensable principles and vital institutions that have long guaranteed freedom in societies, I proposed an innovative solution that counters the threat of fake news with the same tools that it uses to undermine them in “Saving Freedom of Expression from Disinformation through Diversification of Algorithms in Social Media”.  

Coming from a highly politicised country, I often struggle to verify information about important events on social media – where we, as millennial, are constantly fed and bombarded with fake news on daily basis. Thus, when I saw the topic for this year’s St. Gallen Symposium, I was very motivated to dig deeper into the issue and figure out ways to tackle the matter. When I decided to write about fake news, I knew that I had to go beyond the politics of disinformation, thus integrating both technology and artificial intelligence (AI) as part of my solution to be able to practically and innovatively address this ongoing challenge of our time. 

With little background in technology, I spent a lot of time researching and learning about AI, big data and programming. So, when I was informed that my idea has been recognised as one of the top 20 thought-provoking ideas, I became quite happy that I was able to elaborately present my idea in such a way that the jury understood my attempt to take on this complex issue at the intersection of technology, politics and institutional law. This, I feel, is where this multifaceted issue could be effectively and pragmatically addressed.