Breaking down disinformation

Tuesday 12 September, 6pm (AEST)
Against the facts and evidence, why do we believe the things we do, from conspiracy theories to science denialism? Get a handle on post-truth politics with philosopher Lee McIntyre, digital platforms researcher Joanne Gray and cognitive scientist Micah Goldwater.

Disinformation doesn’t just deny obvious realities — it’s becoming more sophisticated and shaping the world around us. Most recently we've witnessed this with COVID-19 myths and now, with claims about the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Further afield, for 2024 elections across the world, experts warn the advances and growing adoption of AI could supercharge disinformation tactics

In this Sydney Ideas event, we bring together experts to discuss disinformation – what makes it so influential and problematic, roles and responsibilities of our institutions and platforms, and how to counteract it for better decision-making. Hear from: 

  • Lee McIntyre, research fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and best-selling author of Post-Truth and How to Talk to a Science Denier. Lee’s latest book is On Disinformation (launching September 2023) and it explains how the war on facts began, and how ordinary citizens can fight back against the scourge of disinformation that is now imperiling democracy and trust in our institutions. 
  • Joanne Gray, an expert on digital platform policy; Joanne researches how platforms such as Google/Alphabet and Facebook/Meta exercise private power and policy options; and recently explored how conspiracy theories thrive on YouTube.
  • Micah Goldwater, cognitive scientist and project leader for Fighting Truth Decay node at the Charles Perkins Centre, which leads research on understanding how misinformation spreads, how it is supported by social institutions, and its effects on individuals.
  • Farz Edraki, writer, editor, and host of ABC podcast Days Like These, hosts this conversation. 

This event was held on 12 September 2023 at the University of Sydney.

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The speakers

Dr Micah Goldwater, University of Sydney

Micah is Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology, Faculty of Science. He researches how people think and learn. This work involves both conducting experiments in the lab, and designs to improve how people think and learn in the “real world.”  He holds a B.A. in Linguistics from the University of Rochester, and a PhD in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He held a postdoctoral fellowship at Northwestern University before joining the University of Sydney.

Dr Joanne Gray University of Sydney

Joanne is a Lecturer in Digital Cultures in the Discipline of Media and Communications, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. She is an interdisciplinary academic with expertise in digital platform policy and governance. Her research seeks to understand how digital platforms, such as Google/Alphabet and Facebook/Meta, exercise private power and explore relevant policy options.

Dr Lee McIntyre, Boston University

Lee is a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and an Instructor in Ethics at Harvard Extension School. He holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). 

Lee is the author of On Disinformation (MIT Press, 2023), How to Talk to a Science Denier (MIT Press, 2021), The Art of Good and Evil (Braveship Books, 2021) and more. He has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Nature, Scientific American, New Statesman and numerous other venues. He has appeared on CNN International on Amanpour and Company—and several other programs on PBS, NPR and the BBC—and has spoken at the United Nations, NASA, and the Vatican.

Photo: Teresa Tan

Host: Farz Edraki, ABC

Farz is a writer, editor, broadcaster and presenter of ABC's Days Like These podcast.

Farz joined the ABC as a radio producer in Canberra in 2014, and has since gone on to tell stories for television (The House; Tonightly; The School That Tried To End Racism) and online (ABC Everyday). 

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