Berkeley Conversation: Defending against the ravages of disinformation

Trust has so fractured among competing U.S. cultures and communities that millions of Americans do not believe the verifiable fact of Joe Biden’s election victory in 2020. A Berkeley Conversation on Tuesday, Sept. 21, will explore whether it is possible to neutralize the disinformation that is tearing society apart. (AP/Sipa USA photo by Alex Milan Tracy ) As the nation struggles against confusion and discord linked to an epidemic of disinformation, a panel of pre-eminent UC Berkeley scholars will convene next week to explore how to defend democracy from false information without compromising core American principles.

The online Berkeley Conversation, "Defending Against Disinformation," will be held on Tuesday Sept. 21 from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m. The event will be streamed live on YouTube and on Facebook.

"Defending Against Disinformation" features a panel of elite scholars who specialize in democracy, law, racial justice, communication and technology: Geeta Anand , dean of the School of Journalism; Erwin Chemerinsky , dean of Berkeley Law; Hany Farid , associate dean and head of the School of Information; Susan D. Hyde , chair of the Department of Political Science; and john powell , director of the Othering & Belonging Institute. The panel will be moderated by Henry Brady , former dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy.

Disinformation - the intentional dissemination of false information to shape political and social outcomes - is increasingly a feature of the U.S. political landscape. The effects are pernicious: By causing confusion, disinformation amplifies division and aggravates discord. By creating a false but widely accepted alternate reality, it can destabilize a society. Just in the past year, disinformation has had direct, harmful effects on efforts to check the spread of COVID-19, on initiatives for racial justice and on the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath.

Clearly, disinformation costs lives and erodes democracy. That raises a critical question: How can we counter and neutralize disinformation without compromising freedom of speech, freedom of the press and other core American values? "Defending Against Disinformation" is open to the campus community, and to policymakers, journalists and the general public, without cost.

The event is sponsored by the Goldman School of Public Policy ÜBerkeley Law and the Office of Communications and Public Affairs , with support from the Social Science Matrix.

By Edward Lempinen

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