Conspiracy, Misinformation, and the Infodemic
Fall 2022 to Spring 2023
In lieu of Resident Associates, CAS Director May Berenbaum and Deputy Director Masumi Iriye oversee this ongoing initiative featuring UI faculty as well as invited guests.
The year 2020 was one of overlapping crises—of a global nature, including the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine hesitancy, climate change, and immigration; of national impact, such as election security, policing, racism, and revisionist educational standards; and even of very localized concern blown entirely out of proportion to the potential for damage ("murder hornets"). All these crises are to some degree a manifestation of an underlying crisis in communication—an infodemic, defined by the World Health Organization as "too much information including false or misleading information in digital and physical environments."
Particularly during a health crisis, misinformation or disinformation can compromise evidence-based public health responses, with lasting deleterious effects. "Fake news" and other forms of media manipulation have been around for decades, even centuries, but the rapid proliferation of and easy access to new technologies have led to unprecedented information overload and accompanying cognitive vulnerabilities. UIUC's mission as a public university is to discover and disseminate useful knowledge acquired by scholarly means, yet virtually every academic discipline today faces challenges from segments of the general population skeptical of traditionally authoritative sources of information.
With this ongoing intiative, CAS will tackle misinformation, disinformation, "fake news," and conspiracies in a series of public conversations, to investigate the history of rumor, propaganda, misinformation, and conspiracy theories, their impacts on human behavior and public policy-making, and the role of institutions of higher education to halt, mitigate, or circumvent their corrosive effects on the health and safety of the public.
Co-hosted by the Center for Advanced Study and the Office of the Provost
Events from Fall 2021-Spring 2022