Countering online disinformation: An interdisciplinary and network-building symposium

Different forms of disinformation have become increasingly visible and significant in the media and political landscapes in recent years. Political and/or financial motives often give fuel to the production and distribution of disinformation and studies have shown its interconnectedness with ad-tech industries.

Venue: Oslo Metropolitan University (P46, Athens)

Time: June 3-4, 2019

Symposium chair and organizers: Oscar Westlund, Professor and the Digital Journalism Research Group, Oslo Metropolitan University.

Co-organizers: Anja Bechmann (Aarhus University), Matteo Magnani (Uppsala University) and Luca Rossi (IT University Copenhagen)

Key themes:
I.) Epistemologies and boundaries of digital journalism
II.) Platform content moderation and fact-checking
III.) Media literacy and source criticism
IV.) Educational implications

Inquiries about the conference should be sent to Oscar Westlund via email oscarw@oslomet.no.

Introduction

Different forms of disinformation have become increasingly visible and significant in the media and political landscapes in recent years. Political and/or financial motives often give fuel to the production and distribution of disinformation and studies have shown its interconnectedness with ad-tech industries. Disinformation is destructive in many ways. It potentially erodes public trust in media, politicians, and other institutions. It degrades political debate, shuts down opposition, threatens the integrity of electoral processes, and intensifies polarization – all of which contribute to undermining democratic legitimacy. Disinformation is also effective: even when it is revealed and debunked, as it continues to shape people’s attitudes. Yet overly zealous attempts to regulate, censor, or ban the production and dissemination of disinformation also pose threats to democracy, by undermining fundamental rights to free speech and expression.

This interdisciplinary symposium at OsloMet is the second of three NOR-HS workshops on online disinformation. The first workshop in Aarhus (May 6-7 2019) focuses on the fundamental problem of observing and measuring disinformation. It takes up the key question: How can we define and measure online disinformation in a holistic way - without being limited by discipline-specific views?  This interdisciplinary OsloMet symposium strives to further develop interdisciplinary collaborations, focusing on this key question: In what ways can we counter online disinformation?

We recognize this can take place in multiple ways and involves different stakeholders. This conference will work to advance our knowledge in four key areas.

  • Invited keynotes and thematic speakers

    The symposium will feature several keynote presentations addressing the overall theme for the symposium, followed by invited speakersfor each thematic area.

    • Keynotes

      •  Tools of Disinformation: What Factors Enable Fake News to Deceive
        • Edson Tandoc Jr, Associate Professor, Nanyang Technological University
      • The Infrastructural Uncanny and the Social Life of Junk News Online
        • Liliana Bounegru
    • Invited thematic speakers

      Theme I: Epistemologies of digital journalism:

      • Confronting uncertainty
        • Scott Eldridge II, Assistant Professor, Unversity of Groningen

      Theme II: Platform content moderation and fact-checking:

      • Fact-checking the fact-checkers: Insights from an external assessor for the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN)
        • Ester Appelgren, Associate Professor, Södertörn University

      Theme III: Media literacy and source criticism

      • From whence news literacy? The forces behind news repertoire formation
        • Chris Peters, Professor, Roskilde University

      Theme IV: Educational implications

      • Engaging with truths: Practice-based learning, science journalism, and student-led research in addressing disinformation
        • Robert Gutsche Jr, Senior Lecturer, Lancaster University

      Final address: 

      • Disinformation and interrelated policy debates and potential research initiatives
        • Anja Bechmann, Professor, Aarhus University
  • Registration and submission of extended abstracts

    We invite 1000-word abstracts outlining empirical, theoretical or policy-oriented papers as well as outlines of potential research projects. We welcome submissions that clarify problem focus area, purpose, and also methods and findings were applicable. You should clearly address the general context of countering online disinformation, and one of the four themes:

    1. Epistemologies of digital journalism: How diverse actors such as journalists, but also peripheral actors and alternative media producers, employ digital tools to produce and publish “news.” What truth claims that are being made (explicit or implicit).
    2. Platform content moderation and fact-checking: The ethics and legal expectations on platform content moderation in the salient case of disinformation, as well as research into the current practices, and other potential practices.
    3. Media literacy and source criticism: Focusing on the citizens and their media literacy. How can we develop effective source criticism?
    4. Educational implications: Assessing how different countries, up until now, have tried to counter disinformation by means of educational efforts. What is the effect of these efforts? It also welcomes presentations proposing new or alternative approaches, derived from other successful education initiatives, or from applicable theoretical- or conceptual constructs.

    The abstracts should be accompanied by a 100-word biography of the presenter(s) together with contact details. Abstracts, biographies and contact details should be submitted using the online registration scheme by May 16. Notification of acceptance will be sent out within shortly.

    There is no conference fee for accepted presenters. Our grant will offer complimentary lunch and coffee breaks to all presenters both days. Scholars from Nordic countries can apply for having their accommodation in Oslo funded by the organizers. If you wish to apply for travel grant, please include a 100-200 words motivation, stating clearly if this is a pre-requisite for you to come. In light of climate-friendliness and to facilitate participation for those far away, we will also offer the possibility for some scholars to present their work over videoconference. If you are interested in this possibility please add a note about this to your abstract. We recommend scholars to book accommodation at Thon Hotel Europa or Scandic Holbergplass (affordable yet high standard) or Cochs Pensjonat (budget option with good standard).

    We also offer a limited number of spaces to those interested in listening at the conference, who must register and pay 650 NOK to cover lunch and coffee breaks. Moreover we reserve some seats to OsloMet students, who can notify us they want to attend sessions (for free, but does not include coffee breaks and lunch).

    Questions related to practical matters about the workshop may be addressed to Pernille Bakkevig via email peba@oslomet.no.

    Academic questions may be addressed to Oscar Westlund via email oscarw@oslomet.no.

  • Time and venue

    Time

    The symposium begins at noon on June 3rd, and will run for a full day on June 4th.

    Venue

    The conference will be held at Oslo Metropolitan University and its modern conference facilities Athens in Pilestredet 46. Oslo Metropolitan University is conveniently located in the Oslo city center, with Karl Johans gate and the royal palace within a few minutes walking distance.

  • Organization

    This is the second of a series of three workshops to be held as part of the initiative "Online disinformation: an integrated view” supported by The Joint Committee for Nordic research councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS) in an effort to encourage an interdisciplinary approach to the problem of online disinformation. As noted above, the first workshop was held in Aarhus (Denmark). The final will be held in Uppsala (Sweden). All workshops aim to gather researchers from media studies, political communication, computer sciences and philosophy as well as actors from outside academia such as journalists and policy makers. The workshop in Oslo will be organized by Oscar Westlund, Research Leader for the Digital Journalism Research Group at Oslo Metropolitan University. The program committee consists of.

    • Anja Bechmann, Aarhus University, Denmark
    • Matteo Magnani, Uppsala University, Sweden
    • Luca Rossi, IT University Copenhagen, Denmark
    • Oscar Westlund, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway