UBC Okanagan event shines light on dark world of misinformation | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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UBC Okanagan event shines light on dark world of misinformation

UBCO is hosting a two-day virtual event this week featuring presentations and in-depth discussions on misinformation and how quickly it spreads, March 4 and 5, 2021.

UBC Okanagan is hosting a two-day virtual event that delves into deception, conspiracy theories and misleading information from a panel of experts.

The Roger Gale Symposium called the Misinformation Age is set to take place Thursday, March 4 and Friday, March 5.

Dan Ryder, UBCO philosophy professor, is organizing the event and is concerned how authoritarian regimes are using mass media to misinform the public.

“When I think about authoritarian regimes in relation to misinformation, two very different things come to mind. First, we have regimes like those in Russia and China who exert careful control over social media content, and spread misinformation within their own countries and abroad," Ryder said in a UBCO media release.

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“Second, we have these partial democracies — or democracies with authoritarian leanings — using the problem of misinformation as an excuse to interfere with free speech,” he said.

Social media is increasingly being used to spread misinformation, Ryder said.

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that it isn’t his company’s place to decide what’s true, and that their role is only to provide an unfettered venue for the free exchange of ideas, but also, social media platforms aren’t just allowing people to post their ideas online without interference.

Their newsfeeds and search algorithms determine what users see and they want us to keep reading, watching or scrolling so they can collect our data and use it to sell advertising, Ryder said.

As a consequence, they often show people content that arouses emotion, whether or not it’s true. It is the social media platforms that recommend this content, and research suggests these algorithms have pulled people down these rabbit holes that lead to false information, conspiracy theories and hatred, he said.

“That said, they seem to have taken more responsibility lately. For example, Twitter removed Donald Trump’s account after ample evidence he was communicating in bad faith. But the question of how to fix the problem without harming free speech remains to be answered,” Ryder said.

READ MORE: Twitter cracks down on COVID vaccine misinformation

To combat this, people need to be resistant to misinformation, that they are media literate and have good critical thinking skills.

“Finland has been a bit of a poster child for this strategy. Their efforts to integrate media literacy and critical thinking beginning from the earliest ages are much-lauded,” he said.

For more information or to register for the free event, visit UBCO’s website.

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