False Information Online

Online disinformation, misinformation and fake news are complex phenomena, driven by technology, economics, propaganda, and people’s woeful digital literacy, with a raft of sociological and psychological reasons for why people spread false information. As such, there is no one single solution, but MPC members, Vian Bakir and Andrew McStay, are working on this.

This includes academic publications such as Fake News and The Economy of Emotions; Empathic Media, Emotional AI and the Optimization of Disinformation[see panel discussion here in Apr 2021]; and Organized Persuasive Communication: A Conceptual Framework.

It includes analysis for the Political Studies Association (e.g. ’What Drives Fake News’, and for MeCCSA’s Three-D (Combatting fake news: analysis of submissions to the fake news inquiry).

In 2018, they contributed to a White Paper for the European Commission to shape research agenda (H2020, FP9) on Opinion Forming in the Digital Age: Fake News, Echo Chambers & Populism.

Across 2017-19, they made numerous submissions to the UK Parliament’s Fake News Inquiry, focussing on solutions to fake news. Two written submissions are Fake News: Media Economics and Emotional Button-Pushing; and Summary And Analysis Of All Written Submissions On How To Combat Fake News (Up To April 2017). Another (authored by Bakir, Miller, Robinson and Simpson) is on Fake News: A Framework for Detecting and Avoiding Propaganda.

In 2018, Vian Bakir and Andrew McStay were invited to give evidence on misinformation and user targeting to the UK Parliament’s Fake News Inquiry. Vian told a panel of 11 MPs about the many democratic problems with online ‘filter bubbles’. Vian also pointed out that politicians themselves are responsible for a significant portion of deception online, and should do more to prevent fake news at source. Televised coverage of the 1.5 hr Fake News panel generated worldwide press coverage. (e.g. AOL).

Vian has spoken extensively to diverse stakeholders about the problems to democracy arising from online disinformation, and how to combat it. This includes: seminars on disinformation and the UK Parliament’s Fake News Inquiry to Univ. of Otago, New Zealand (May 2019), and Univ. of Linneaus, Sweden (Nov 2019); speaking at a British Academy Conference on Challenges to Judicial Independence in Times of Crisis, Carlton House, London (Mar. 2018,); keynotes on Fake News and Public Relations to Cymru Communications Annual Autumn conference, Trust in Government Communications. Cardiff, Llandudno (Oct 2017) ; a keynote to international journalists and fact-checkers (Fojo, Kalmar, Nov 2019); and a keynote to XXXII Meeting of Philosophy & Theory of Human Sciences, Philosophy Department, Unesp/Brazil (Oct 2020) on 'COVID-19: How can we communicate risk in a post-truth world?' (see Video - 41 mins in).

Vian and Andrew participated in a Pew Internet survey on the future of information ecosystems and reliable facts – a survey that consulted more than 1,100 internet and technology experts. It wanted to know their thoughts on fake news and its implications for democracy. This was published in Oct 2017 as The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online.

Media coverage on Bangor’s research into fake news, deception and propaganda include:   BBC.com , New ScientistSVT radio (Sweden), Vecer (Slovenia), Business Daily (Kenya) and Daily Post (Wales).