Last weekend in New York City, journalists and scholars confronted the “fake news” plague with a meeting they dubbed the “summit for antidote.”
One of the more interesting sessions of the four-day conference, “Digital Objectives and Problem-Solving,” focused on how journalists and academics are tackling this new and deeply partisan terrain. Panelists included Patrick Tyler, journalism professor and director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University; Nathan Heller, a Brookings Institute fellow and the former digital news director for Reuters; Tim Beller, a University of Alabama political science professor who’s studying how to communicate more effectively between “fake news” originators and their victims; and Victor Kouzounas, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication at Cornell University who’s studying how misinformation spread during the 2016 election cycle.
Kouzounas told the Post that he became interested in tracking the diffusion of misinformation in the 2016 election after he became “fairly convinced” that people were posting false “propaganda” online. He wanted to know what the consequences were of those false posts, as well as how misinformation has evolved on the internet over the past decade.
“More and more publications, and more and more people, are engaging in the art of ‘liking’ and retweeting and replying to it, and that’s not at all helpful,” Kouzounas said. “So my whole project is really about the trends, how disinformation has evolved, and the differences that there are between getting fooled now on social media platforms versus getting fooled in 2017 and before.”
In preparation for the summit, Kouzounas spent six months speaking with Facebook, Twitter, Facebook itself, Google and the top 20 mainstream news outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, ABC, CBS, the Associated Press, The Guardian, YouTube and HuffPost, to get a better understanding of how to respond to misinformation.
For example, he explained, a top Facebook executive told him that “because misinformation has evolved, people and news organizations can’t be equally prepared to tackle it.” Kouzounas, however, said he believes they should be equally equipped to combat misinformation, regardless of whether it’s from Russia or the U.S.
Click through to the newsroom archives to read the stories from the main summit, which was focused on countering misinformation.