2021: The Misinformation Age
The Economics, Philosophy and Political Science Department in UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences presents the next Roger W. Gale Symposium in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
The Misinformation Age
March 4 and 5, 2021
Sometimes it seems as though the world is spiralling out of control as unreflective thinking, mistrust, fake news, and conspiracy theories wreak havoc. In the last year, the impact of misinformation reached epic proportions during the pandemic and the American election. Authoritarian regimes engaged in information warfare with ever more sophisticated tools and greater reach. Meanwhile, social media platforms came under fire by many for not doing enough to counter misinformation, and by others for undermining free expression with a heavy-handed overreaction.
To stave off the negative impacts of misinformation, we first need to understand it. The good news is that researchers from across the disciplines have begun to make real progress. This year’s Roger Gale Symposium brings together eight leading voices from this effort to help us understand and counter the threat.
This battle belongs to all of us.
Thank you to those who attended our virtual event!
Videos will be posted to this page soon, please check back.
See below for links to the complete unedited footage.
University of Alberta Law, multiple bestselling author, Netflix host
Stanford Internet Observatory, research lead for Senate Intelligence committee
Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State, award-winning journalist
Columbia University Law, Co-chair of the Facebook Oversight Board
Scientific American Editor in Chief, National Association of Science Writers past president
McGill Psychology & Neuroscience, multiple NYT bestselling author
University of Regina Business School and Psychology, IgNobel Prize winner
UBC History, Marshall Fund fellow (Washington DC), Gomery and Fraenkel Prize winner
Timothy Caulfield is a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, a Professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health, and Research Director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. His interdisciplinary research on topics like stem cells, genetics, research ethics, the public representations of science and public health policy has allowed him to publish over 350 academic articles. He has won numerous academic and writing awards and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. He contributes frequently to the popular press and is the author of two national bestsellers: The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness (Penguin 2012) and Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash (Penguin 2015). His most recent book is Relax, Dammit!: A User’s Guide to the Age of Anxiety (Penguin Random House, 2020).
Caulfield is also the host and co-producer of the award-winning documentary TV show, A User’s Guide to Cheating Death, which has been shown in over 60 countries, including streaming on Netflix in North America.
Renée DiResta is the technical research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory, a cross-disciplinary program of research, teaching and policy engagement for the study of abuse in current information technologies. Renée investigates the spread of malign narratives across social networks, and assists policymakers in devising responses to the problem. Renee has studied influence operations and computational propaganda in the context of pseudoscience conspiracies, terrorist activity, and state-sponsored information warfare, and has advised Congress, the State Department, and other academic, civil society, and business organizations on the topic. At the behest of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, she led one of the two research teams that produced comprehensive assessments of the Internet Research Agency’s and GRU’s influence operations targeting the U.S. from 2014-2018.
Renée regularly writes and speaks about the role that tech platforms and curatorial algorithms play in the proliferation of disinformation and conspiracy theories. She is an Ideas contributor at Wired. Her tech industry writing, analysis, talks, and data visualizations have been featured or covered by numerous media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, Yale Review, Fast Company, Politico, TechCrunch, Wired, Slate, Forbes, Buzzfeed, The Economist, Journal of Commerce, and more. She is a 2017 Presidential Leadership Scholar, a 2019 Truman National Security Project security fellow, and a Council on Foreign Relations term member.
Dan Gillmor is Professor of Practice at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, Senior Fellow at the Cyber Civilization Research Center at Keio University in Tokyo, and an internationally recognized leader in new media and entrepreneurial journalism and digital media literacy.
A longtime Silicon Valley-based journalist, Gillmor wrote a popular business and technology column for the San Jose Mercury News and launched a blog in 1999, one of the very first mainstream journalism blogs; he has also written for the New York Times, Boston Globe, the Economist, The Financial Times, Slate, Wired, and many other publications. He is Co-founder of News Co/Lab at ASU, and experimental lab devoted to advancing media literacy through journalism, education and technology. He wrote the most widely cited book on citizen journalism, We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People, and more recently published Mediactive, a study of media literacy which emphasizes the importance of active rather than passive media consumption. Mediactive has now expanded to include an open online course on media literacy aimed at adults. Gillmor is working on a new book and web project, tentatively entitled Permission Taken, about the increasing control that companies and governments are exerting over the way we use technology and communicate, and how we can take back some of that control.
Gillmor generously donates his time to non-profit organizations and currently serves on the Boards of the First Amendment Coalition, which promotes free speech and open government, and the Signals Network, dedicated to protecting whistleblowers and connecting them to journalism organizations. In constant demand as a public speaker, he has delivered hundreds of talks and workshops around the world.
Jamal Greene is Dwight Professor of Law at Columbia University Law School. He is a constitutional law expert whose scholarship focuses on the structure of legal and constitutional argument. Greene is the author of the forthcoming book, “How Rights Went Wrong: Why Our Obsession with Rights is Tearing America Apart” (HMH March 2021) and numerous law review articles and other academic works. During the 2018–2019 academic year, Greene served as a senior visiting scholar at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, where he commissioned and oversaw new scholarly research relating to free speech and new communications platforms. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and has served as Columbia Law’s Vice Dean for Intellectual Life. He currently serves as co-chair of the Oversight Board, an independent body set up to review content moderation decisions on Facebook and Instagram.
Greene is a sought-after media commentator, and his popular press articles have appeared in The New York Times, Slate, New York Daily News, and The Los Angeles Times. In 2018, he served as an aide to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Ca.) during the Senate confirmation hearings of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Before training as a lawyer, he was a baseball reporter for Sports Illustrated.
Prior to joining Columbia Law in 2008, Greene was the Alexander Fellow at New York University School of Law. He served as a law clerk to Judge Guido Calabresi on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and for Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a member of the American Law Institute and sits on the Board of Academic Advisors of the American Constitution Society.
Laura Helmuth is Editor in Chief of Scientific American. After obtaining a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of California at Berkeley through her work on Parkinson’s disease, she began her journalistic career as a staff reporter and editor for the journal Science. Since then she has been Science Editor at Smithsonian Magazine, Science and Health Editor at Slate, Director of Digital News at National Geographic, and editor of Health, Science and Environment at the Washington Post. Helmuth was the President of the National Association of Science Writers from 2016 to 2018 and board member from 2012 to 2016. She serves on the Standing Committee on Advancing Science Communication Research and Practice in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Besides her storied journalistic and editorial career, she studies and lectures regularly on how science journalists can counter misinformation and address uncertainty in their reporting. At the Washington Post, Helmuth oversaw an effort to combat the spread of misinformation by introducing the public to the study of these phenomena through science, and she has identified this as one of the top priorities for Scientific American in the coming years as well. One important part of this project is improving science communication to ensure that real information as captivating as misinformation.
Helmuth is generous with her time in serving on the boards of Society for Science and the Public, High Country News, the Geological Society of Washington, Spectrum magazine (an initiative of the Simons Foundation), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s service SciLine.
Daniel J. Levitin is an award-winning neuroscientist, musician, and best-selling author. His research encompasses music, the brain, health, productivity and creativity. Levitin earned his B.A. from Stanford in Cognitive Science, his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology with a Ph.D. minor in Music Technology from the University of Oregon, and completed post-doctoral training at Stanford University Medical School and UC Berkeley in Neuroimaging and Perception. Levitin taught at Stanford in the Departments of Computer Science, Psychology, History of Science, and Music, and has been a Visiting Professor at Dartmouth, and UC Berkeley. He is currently the Founding Dean of Arts & Humanities at the Minerva Schools at the Keck Graduate Institute, San Francisco, California, and James McGill Professor Psychology, Neuroscience and Music at McGill University.
Levitin is the author of four New York Times bestselling books: This Is Your Brain On Music, The World in Six Songs, The Organized Mind and Successful Aging (published in the UK as The Changing Mind), as well as the international bestseller A Field Guide to Lies (also published as Weaponized Lies). In addition, he has published more than 300 articles, in journals including Science, Nature, PNAS, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The Wall Street Journal. His research has been featured over 1800 times in the popular press, including The New York Times, and in The London Times, Scientific American, and Rolling Stone. He is a frequent guest on NPR and CBC Radio and has appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, and CNN. A popular public speaker, he has given presentations on the floor of Parliament in London, to the U.S. Congress, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, and his TED talk is among the most viewed of all time. He has consulted for a number of companies including Apple, Booz-Allen, Microsoft, the United States Navy, Sonos, Philips, Sony, Fender, and AT&T.
As a musician (tenor saxophone, guitar, vocals and bass), he has performed with Mel Tormé, David Byrne, Rosanne Cash, Sting, Bobby McFerrin, Victor Wooten and Tom Scott. Levitin has produced and consulted on albums by artists including Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell and on the films Good Will Hunting and Pulp Fiction, and has been awarded 17 gold and platinum records.
Pennycook is Assistant Professor of Behavioural Science at the University of Regina’s Hill/Levene Schools of Business, and an Associate Member of the Department of Psychology. His research focus is on reasoning and decision-making, especially the distinction between intuitive processes (“gut feelings”) and more deliberative (“analytic”) reasoning processes and the causes and consequences of analytic thinking. Although a recent PhD, he is already an international leader in the study of misinformation and motivated reasoning, and his publications on these and other topics as diverse as religious belief, morality, creativity, smartphone use, science and health beliefs, language use among climate change deniers, delusional ideation, disinformation, political ideology have accumulated nearly 10,000 citations.
After receiving his PhD from the University of Waterloo in 2016, he completed a two-year Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship at Yale University (Department of Psychology) with Dr. David Rand. During his postdoc he was awarded the Governor General’s Gold Medal and was named the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network “Researcher of the Year.” In 2020 he received the Vincent Di Lollo Early Career Award from Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Science and was elected to be a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. He is currently a member of the editorial board for Thinking & Reasoning and a consulting editor for Judgment and Decision Making, the same journal in which he published “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit” in 2016, for which he was awarded the IgNobel Peace Prize.
Heidi Tworek (PhD Harvard University) is associate professor of international history and public policy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. She works on media, international organizations, and transatlantic relations. She is a visiting fellow at the Joint Center for History and Economics at Harvard University as well as a non-resident fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, DC and the Canadian Global Affairs Institute in Ottawa. Tworek’s 2019 book, News from Germany: The Competition to Control World Communications, 1900–1945 was awarded both the 2020 Ralph Gomory Prize and the 2019 Ernst Fraenkel Prize. It describes how the Nazis manipulated the news to rise to dominance in Europe and further their global agenda, demonstrating that information warfare is not a novelty of the digital age. Her many book chapters and journal articles have appeared in venues including Journal of Global History, Journal of Policy History, Business History Review, Journalism Studies, German History and Enterprise & Society; she also manages the United Nations History Project website.
Tworek is committed to bringing a historical sensibility to policy discussions. She has briefed or advised officials and policymakers from multiple European and North American governments on media, democracy, and the digital economy. She writes a monthly column on platform governance for the Centre for International Governance Innovation. Her writing has been published in English and German in major magazines and newspapers, including Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Politico, The Globe and Mail, Columbia Journalism Review, War on the Rocks, Wired, Nieman Journalism Lab, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Tagesspiegel, ZEIT, Internationale Politik, and The Conversation. Tworek also appears regularly on national radio and television in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
Thursday, March 4
1:00 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.
Timothy Caulfield: Countering Misinformation: Both Necessary and Effective (More, Please!)
1:45 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Heidi Tworek: Why the Present Caught up with History
2:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.
Jamal Greene: The Oversight Board: Its Possibilities and Its Limits
3:15 pm to 4:00 p.m.
Dan Gillmor: Misinformation is Also a Demand Problem, Not Just Supply
4:00 pm to 5:00 p.m.
Friday, March 5
1:00 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.
Daniel Levitin: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Misinformation
1:45 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Laura Helmuth: How Journalists Are Adapting to the Misinformation Age (or Trying to)
2:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.
Gordon Pennycook: Intuition, Reason, and Social Media
3:15 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Renée DiResta: The challenge of moderating viral health misinformation
4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
About the Series
The Roger W. Gale Symposium in Philosophy, Politics and Economics is a regular event that focuses on a current issue overlapping with the multiple disciplines within our department. It is meant to bring various parts of the academy and the public together into fruitful dialogue with a range of experts.
Recent symposia include:
What: Humans, machines and the future of work
Who: Experts in public policy, higher education and international business
Technological progress is significantly changing the world of work. A new wave of disruption is impacting traditional jobs, industries and business models. Canadians are increasingly employed in non-traditional industries, working flexible hours and using technology to change the way they work.
The goal of this symposium was to explore what influence the continuing march of technology, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will have on where we work and how we work, and where we fit in an automated world.
Guest speakers included:
- Paulina Cameron, author of bestselling Canada 150 Women
- Taylor Owen, professor of digital media and global affairs at UBC’s Vancouver campus
- Sunil Johal, policy director at the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre
- Alexandra Matesscu, ethnographer and researcher at the Data and Society Research Institute
What: Symposium on Nuclear North Korea: Implications for Canada and the Region
Who: Canada’s former ambassadors to Korea and China, and several experts on the region
On the margins of the international community for decades, North Korea has been pursuing and ramping up a nuclear program and has made direct threats toward the United States. The most recent threat came in November when the country claimed to have successfully tested a new type of international ballistic missile that could reach North America, a claim that US-based experts confirm is supported by their data.
Heightened rhetoric from Leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump have made frequent headlines around the world, leaving many people concerned about what appears to be an increasing threat, and unsure what is hype and what is reality.
The daylong symposium brought together six experts to discuss the nature of the threat, the historical context, the competing geopolitical interests in the region and what role Canada should play.
Speakers at this event included: Sven Jurschewsky, former Senior Counselor, Canadian Foreign Service in China; David Chatterson, Canada’s Ambassador to Korea (2011-2014); Gunn Kim, Consul General of the Republic of Korea; Scott Snyder, Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C.; Jenny Town, US-Korea Institute, Johns Hopkins University; and Donald Baker, Professor of Korean History, UBC Vancouver.
The discussion examined how people can better assess what they see in the media on international politics and diplomacy.
The day included three sessions:
- Historical context: How did we get to where we are today? Analyzing previous negotiations and engagement with the regime and their outcomes.
- Geopolitical interests and responses: What are the core interests of the main players in the region and the international community and how are they pursuing those interests?
- What should we learn from this situation? What are the implications for Canada?
This symposium series is made possible through the generous support of Roger W. Gale.
Now living in West Kelowna, Roger holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as degrees from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and the School of International Service, American University. Roger has had a diverse career, ranging from teaching at the university level to strategic consulting with global electric power companies. Roger remains active on the boards of two equity funds in the US and he continues his interest in post-secondary education.