Tuesday, March 6th

9:30 WelcomeColin Maclay, Berkman Center for Internet & Society
Jenny Toomey, Ford Foundation
9:45 A Morning of Provocation: Defining the Dimensions of the Problem

The morning will be devoted to defining the contours of the problem, along with putting current activities into historical context. With a focus on illustrative case studies, we will start to map the landscape of potential issues around fear, misinformation, spin, and doubt, taking into account both traditional and new media contexts.We plan to approach this multifaceted issue from several perspectives: who are the primary purveyors of distorted information? What do these tricks achieve, and what are the implications? Is the problem worsening? What tools and strategies characterize the new media space—how are they different, in style, reach, and speed? What is the role of traditional gatekeepers, and what challenges do they face? How do our biases affect our ability to process and filter bad information?A range of examples from diverse environments will set the stage for later discussions.


Susan Crawford, Harvard Kennedy School / Harvard Law School
Jonathan Zittrain, Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Purveyors of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt: Actors, Methods, and Motives for Manipulation

Beginning with a historical perspective, this session will look at the evolution of misinformation through different media environments, with a particular focus on the emergence of new tactics and forms of propaganda, misinformation, and spin in the 20th century. Speakers will ask us to think about the role of traditional media in addressing (and contributing to) misinformation. The session will then pivot toward the advent and role of new media and technologies: what is new, or not, about the Internet and the online space? Where do we see the same problems and where are the differences? How does what is different about the new media environment complicate the problem?

Wendell Potter, Author of Deadly Spin (Watch the video here)
Yochai Benkler, Berkman Center for Internet & Society (Watch the video here)

New Media 360: Abundant, Promiscuous, Questionable, and Fast-Moving

This session will take a deeper dive into the misinformation tactics at work within the digital media ecosystem: how is new media different? Our focus will be on case studies that illustrate the coercive power and pervasiveness of tactics that are unique to the online space, from culture jamming and hacking to memetic engineering, media manipulation, and more.

Melanie Sloan, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (watch the video here)
Filippo Menczer, Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing (Watch the video here)
Tim Hwang, Pacific Social Architecting Corporation (Watch the video here)

11:15 Break
11:30 Elusive Objectivity: Finding the Truth is Hard

Media outlets and journalists, together with external critics and dedicated fact-checkers, have a central role in staunching the spread of misinformation and bias; they can also exacerbate matters through selective inclusion and omission of facts, inadequate fact checking, or deceptive framing. Their task is further complicated when the facts themselves are unclear. How do these dynamics play out in the current media landscape? What are the challenges and weaknesses of existing institutional processes and approaches for information vetting and being accountable? How do embedded social and cultural biases interact with the networked media environment?

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania (Watch the video here)
Emily Bell, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University (Watch the video here)
Kai (Watch the video here)

Biases Abound: You Can’t Handle (or Don’t Want) the Truth

This session will focus on the human side of the problem and the limitations that our own behaviors, biases, and patterns can have on our ability, willingness, and motivation to process information. Not only are we often under-qualified to filter good information from bad, but also we are often consciously or unconsciously complicit in our own deception. How are cognitive biases manifest in the new media environment? What does this imply about the potential effectiveness of strategies that might limit the spread of misinformation?

Chris Mooney, Host of Point of Inquiry / Author of The Republican Brain (Watch the video here)
Brendan Nyhan, Dartmouth College (video here)

12:45 Inflection PointCharles Nesson, Berkman Center for Internet & Society
1:00 Lunch
1:45 Reflection and Synthesis

This session will synthesize the most salient threads from the morning sessions and aim to map, distill, and articulate many of the issues we’ve identified. Audience members will be asked to highlight dilemmas and frustrations, call out gaps, and identify new areas for exploration to ensure that we have set the stage for a firm understanding of the challenges in this space.


Urs Gasser, Berkman Center for Internet & Society (video here)


Ethan Zuckerman, MIT Center for Civic Media
John Palfrey, Berkman Center for Internet & Society

2:30 Interventions for Individuals: Tools and Personal Empowerment

This session will showcase tools, skills, and strategies that can help individuals assess the veracity and spin of online media sources. Featured examples will help us to deepen our understanding of practical and conceptual approaches to misinformation issues, while identifying the strengths and limitations of existing strategies to better empower individuals.


Christian Sandvig, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Eszter Hargittai, Northwestern University


Panagiotis “Takis” Metaxas, Wellesley College / Center for Research on Computation and Society, Harvard University (video here)
Paul Resnick, University of Michigan School of Information
Gilad Lotan, SocialFlow

3:45 Break
4:15 Interventions for Institutions: Filters, Intermediaries and Policies

This session will explore systemic approaches to addressing misinformation and bias. We will consider the efforts of those working in the public interest to strengthen existing institutions and create new institutional forms.


Zephyr Teachout, Fordham University
Micah Sifry, Personal Democracy Forum / Harvard Kennedy School


Craig Silverman, Regret the Error
Ellen Miller, Sunlight Foundation
Joshua Benton, Nieman Journalism Lab, Harvard University
Rashad Robinson, ColorOfChange

5:30 Onward!


Ethan Zuckerman, MIT Center for Civic Media
Colin Maclay, Berkman Center for Internet & Society

6:00 Reception