Thomas Jefferson once observed that “information is the currency of democracy.” If this is right, what happens when that currency is corrupted by bad information — alternative facts, fake news, conspiracy theories and pseudo-science? This is the question that Mike Flood will pose in his talk: he will argue that these imposters confuse and mislead the public; they harm people and destroy reputations, sometimes lives; and they can incite suspicion, fear and anger, which undermines social cohesion, democracy and the rule of law. When a society cannot tell fact from fantasy, and politicians and mainstream institutions are no longer trusted, there is a serious risk of descent into chaos.
Today’s post truth world seems to be accelerating down this path — facts and opinions have become interchangeable, evidence and reasoned analysis are routinely dismissed, and experts are reviled and ridiculed; and society has become more intolerant, fractious and polarised, with racialism and hate crime on the rise. We have also seen foreign interference in domestic affairs, and a haemorrhaging of trust in traditional sources of information and authority.
Mike will explore the possible contribution that social media may be playing in this collapse — nearly 4 billion people today have access to the Internet, and three quarters of them are on social media; he will also review the different approaches that are being pursued to neutralise or eliminate the threat and speculate on their likely success.
Mike Flood has many years’ experience in public education. He has spent much of the last year researching into fake news and misinformation and launched Critical Information (in Jan 2017) not only to help foster better public understanding of the scale and nature of the threat, but also to promote media awareness. The intention is not to compete with organisations and statutory bodies working to tackle the problem rather to complement their efforts by helping to explain and publicise their work. Fake news is such a complex and fast-moving field that it is difficult for most people to keep up with developments.
Doors open at 6.30 pm aiming to start the talk at 7pm.
Please arrive early to enjoy conversation and a drink from our wine bar, the profits from which will go to Mike’s chosen charity.
We request £3 at the door, or if you prefer you can pay online on our PayPal link:
Thanks, and hope to see you soon!
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Brockway Room, Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL