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Misinformation: Why It Exists—And How To Stop It

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, June 21, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0596
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Conspiracy theories have been part of our culture for centuries, dating back to the American Revolution. But it wasn’t until the 2016 Presidential election that Americans began to see how the internet could gin up a toxic stew of misinformation powerful enough to drive public opinion and elect a president. Today, algorithms control our news feeds and encourage emotional thinking. Conspiracy theories that were once relegated to fanzines are now heard even on the floors of Congress.

Despite the wealth of resources that have been devoted to halt their dissemination, fake news, misinformation, and disinformation campaigns continue to attack democratic elections and unravel our social fabric. Banning liars and propagandists from Twitter and removing toxic websites won’t make the problem go away.

The Reboot Foundation—which promotes critical thinking through research—and others have found that education must play a primary role in tackling this problem. Despite calls for more media-literacy education, research shows that more than a third of American middle school students have had little or no instruction in how to identify a reliable website.

Helen Lee Bouygues, president of the Reboot Foundation, discusses how to identify and combat fake news. She explains how society can balance free speech and new technologies, why people choose to reject or confirm information that competes with their worldview, and how media consumers can better resist becoming a victim of misinformation.

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