Two Truths and a Lie: Misinformation and Public Health

FRI, APR 24, 2020 (00:00)

What do public health advocates need to know about misinformation research? Like our hospitals, our information systems are completely overwhelmed with questions, ranging from the banal, “How do I know if I have coronavirus?,” “Where can I get tested for COVID-19?,” “Is there a vaccine?” to the conspiracy-driven, “Does 5G affect your health?” or “What is the World Health Organization and do they work for China?” The list goes on, but the fact remains: people are seeking more and more information about COVID-19 and wrong answers could be deadly.

Ashish Jha, Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute talks with Setti Warren, Executive Director of the Shorenstein Center and former Mayor of Newton MA. The two discuss what public health advocates need to know about misinformation and how misinformation influence people’s behaviors. They . cover the ways local governments communicate to residents and how public health professionals and local officials can work together to share life-saving recommendations during the infodemic.

This talk is part of the Big, If True webinar series hosted by Joan Donovan, Ph.D., who heads up the Technology and Social Change Research Project (TaSC) at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

+ BIO: Joan Donovan

Dr. Donovan is a leading public scholar and disinformation researcher, specializing in media manipulation, political movements, critical internet studies, and online extremism. She is the Research Director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and the Director of the Technology and Social Change project (TaSC). Through TaSC, Dr. Donovan explores how media manipulation is a means to control public conversation, derail democracy, and disrupt society. TaSC conducts research, develops methods, and facilitates workshops for journalists, policy makers, technologists, and civil society organizations on how to detect, document, and debunk media manipulation campaigns.

Dr. Donovan is co-founder of Harvard Kennedy School’s Misinformation Review. Her research can be found in academic peer-reviewed journals such as Social Media + Society, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Information, Communication & Society, and Social Studies of Science. She is a columnist at MIT Technology Review, a regular contributor to the New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and PBS, and is quoted often on radio and in print.

Dr. Donovan has laid out the philosophical frameworks for how to research, report on, and understand this moment in internet history and American politics. Her conceptualizations of strategic silence, meme wars, and media manipulation campaigns provide crucial frameworks for understanding how the US got to this point. She coined many of the terms that the disinformation research field and mainstream media use to understand technology’s impact on society.

Dr. Donovan is the co-creator of the beaver emoji.

+ BIO: Ashish Jha

Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH, faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and the K.T. Li Professor of Global Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has been appointed to serve as the next dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, effective September 1, 2020.

Jha became director of the Harvard Global Health Institute in 2014. Under his leadership, HGHI has grown in size and impact both at Harvard and globally. Bringing together faculty, researchers and students from across Harvard, Jha has led major university-wide initiatives on pressing public health issues including pandemic preparedness and global health security, the reshaping of healthcare through artificial intelligence, and the impact of climate change on patient populations and health systems today.

For the last month, Dr. Jha has been on every major network fielding these questions. In addition to leading the Harvard Global Health Institute, he is the K.T. Li Professor of International Health & Health Policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a practicing Internal Medicine physician at the VA Boston Healthcare System.

+ BIO: Setti Warren

Setti D. Warren served as Mayor of Newton, Massachusetts from January 1, 2010 to January 1 2018. He was the first African-American to be a popularly-elected mayor in Massachusetts. After graduating from Boston College, he began an extensive career in public service, serving as special assistant in the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs for President Bill Clinton; as New England director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and as deputy state director for Senator John F. Kerry (D-MA). Prior to running for mayor, Mayor Warren completed a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq as a naval intelligence specialist.

He served on the advisory board of the United States Conference of Mayors, chairing the organization’s community housing and development committee. Mayor Warren is also a life member of The Council on Foreign Relations and a board member of Discovering Justice. He is currently the Executive Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy
Big, If True Series On Tech & The Pandemic