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Hi everyone thanks for joining us for this installment of Dalhousie University’s open dialogue live series I’m Kim Brooks Dean of the Faculty of Management at Dal. Before we begin I want to acknowledge this week’s tragedy we’re all affected by the losses in Nova Scotia we’re a close-knit community the Dalhousie community stands with you in this difficult time. As we all find new ways to stay connected this series is designed to bring weekly conversations to our community featuring Dalhousie experts and focusing on current events. Today’s episode will help make sense of the misinformation landscape, staying up to date with the latest COVID-19 information can be overwhelming in addition to its pace and volume and to the multiple sources of information some of which may be seen to be highly technical and out of the reach of many there’s the challenge of parsing the boring truth from the exciting lie During the presentations we encourage you to post your questions online. A little later in our program we’ll have time to talk about some of those questions with the presenters, so let me get to who those people are. Sociology professor and knowledge expert Emma Whelan will discuss trends in Canadian news coverage with a focus on the themes of moral authority, regulation, risk and responsibility. Welcome Emma. Thank you nice to be here International Development Studies professor and host of the Global Development primer podcast, Robert Hewish will focus on global health along with the challenges of getting good information and policy approaches out and the place of International cooperation. It’s nice to see you again Robert. Hi Kim. Finally professor Mike Schmidt, an award-winning teacher and researcher in Dal’s School of Information Management will shed light on the challenges that technology is creating as it allows information and misinformation to be shared at an astounding and sometimes dangerous pace nice to see you again Mike. We spend a lot of time together these days Kim We do. Why don’t we I’m gonna turn it over to you to get us started Emma. Okay so thanks Kim and hi everyone so I’m going to focus my remarks today on Canadian news coverage so some of the trends we’re seeing and what I think critical consumers of news media should be thinking about right now so first of all why should we care about this? Why should we think critically about media coverage now? Well our exposure to it has increased during the pandemic so any effects that it has on us are likely to be stronger now. According to Statistics Canada 63 percent of Canadians are watching more TV and 68 percent are spending more time on the internet than before the lockdown started and the biggest increase in digital media consumption is in news consumption so much of the news that we’re consuming of course is about the pandemic Canadians are almost 5 times more likely to go to news outlets than government health agencies for information about COVID-19. Now like many people I’ve been glued to my screen since this started obsessively reading and dissecting the news with my family and my friends and my students little shout-out to my students and morality and health seminar we’ve been talking about this stuff a lot but also like most people I’m in a bit of a bubble I tend to read the news stories that reflect my politics and interests I go to particular sources and of course that’s always been true to some extent that people have favored certain newspapers or news programs that cater to their views but we get so much of our news online now and it’s more curated for us than ever before both because of our clicking behavior and also through websites algorithms so if we click on one article we get links to related articles or Facebook based on what it knows about us puts particular sources or stories in our news feeds so instead of talking about the news that I’ve just happened to see which would be pretty biased I think given that I tend to look primarily at kind of liberal left sources I wanted to try to get out of my bubble a bit and do something a bit more systematic so I used a news database called Factiva to do an analysis of the top news stories. In three high circulation Canadian English-language newspapers so The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the National Post and in those three papers 85% of the page one’s stories from mid-March to

mid-April were about COVID-19. It’s been the top story significantly reducing coverage of any other news, so the public is getting less information about other issues than we normally do so I decided to look at those three papers not just because they’re high circulation a lot of people read them but also because they’re generally thought to have distinct political biases and one of the issues that I focus on in my research is the way the media represents health problems as moral problems so who or what is to blame for them? Who’s at most at risk? Who’s responsible for fixing the problems? So what kind of stories did these three newspapers feature on page one? How did they configure the coronavirus problem? Could we put the first slide up please So I did a focused analysis of 200-page wine stories about the coronavirus published between February 27th and April 16th here it is yet now 200 sources is not a huge sample that’s just what I have time for in the past week so my findings are really just suggestive but the top 5 themes in this sample were stories about COVID outside Canada the pandemics effects on the economy and business, stories related to coronavirus testing and labs the experiences of frontline staff and hospitals and the biggest group of all stories about seniors particularly in nursing homes Second slide please. Now when I broke that down by paper I saw some interesting variations in focus so the most prominent theme in the National Post that’s the sections in blue was evaluations of political leadership so this is primarily criticisms of the Trudeau government, the secondary focus was problems in health care institutions and stories about government restrictions and recommendations in the public’s response to those, the behavior of the public and response to those. The Globe’s most frequent themes so those are the bits of the bars in red or the experience of the pandemic in other countries followed by problems and seniors care facilities and effects on business and the Star’s most common themes in orange were stories on overwhelmed hospitals and health care providers followed by problems with COVID-19 testing and seniors care facilities. So in the Star a particularly strong focus on a kind of overwhelmed under-resourced healthcare system so different sources seem to reflect different biases in coverage and because research has shown that Canadians are likely to believe the news to sources that they choose to read, these sources can bias their perspectives about what the main problems, are what the main risks are, what to do about them, who’s most affected, who’s responsible. So for example there’s some interesting differences across sources in stories about restrictions on public behavior so stories in the National Post tend to be more critical of government imposed restrictions and recommendation so for instance they covered social distance shaming and the rise in state and Public Health surveillance and for the most part they covered it critically. The Toronto Star on the other hand published stories that promoted social distancing they were more critical of individuals who weren’t following public health recommendations so different papers use different frames that is they promote different ways of defining the problem and its causes they encourage different moral judgments about it and they recommend different solutions. Next slide please So news reports about the closure of parks or beaches can be framed positively or negatively and negative framing is something like exercise is good for Public Health and the government’s restrictions or authoritarian and too harsh. The positive frame might be restrictions are needed because people are ignoring expert public health advice and increasing community spread. You know the stay the blazes home argument, that our premier has been making. Now both frames are about the same phenomenon both can use experts to support their position neither frame is what I would call misinformation and the moralizing in the stories isn’t always immediately obvious but they focus on different risks government overreach on the one hand, community spread on the other and they assign blame and responsibility differently so one suggests the blame lies with an authoritarian nanny state and the other with irresponsible selfish individuals. So I think such differences in frames help us make sense of some growing political divisions around the pandemic for example the rallies in the U.S. against government post restrictions and again we’ve seen vastly different often very moralizing coverage of those rallies it’s likely that the frames used in media sources on different sides of the political spectrum both reflect and help increase the political divisions that in turn

seem to feed into such rallies. So recently Bill Maher who’s obviously himself a liberal, criticized liberal papers like the post not a Washington Post in The New York Times for publishing when he called panic porn. He argued that whipping up hysteria by exaggerating what is already a crisis, that not only makes people unnecessarily anxious but it could actually give credence to Donald Trump’s charges about fake news and allow Trump to play the optimist about the pandemic and as Mark points out optimists tend to get elected so the liberal media he’s saying could actually be helping Trump by exaggerating the crisis whereas of course their intent is to criticize trumps handling of the crisis and here’s another example about how moralizing frames can sometimes backfire so there’s a lot of moralizing coverage about toilet paper hoarding and that seems to encourage more toilet paper hoarding people worried that they didn’t have enough, that you know they wouldn’t be able to get toilet paper so that of course exacerbated the shortage. I’d say that the issue with reputable news sources generally isn’t that one sources coverage is wrong and the others is right, but that they problematize things differently and sometimes they even use the same facts. News sources tend to use the frames that their niche markets like, that they’re used to, that they agree with so following only sources that fit our biases can entrench them even further. They can lead us to believe that our values are truths and that makes us less able to subject those values to critical scrutiny, we become less aware of the way our news is being framed and the moral judgments we’re making as a result. So to be critical news consumers I think we need to do at least three things: first look for stories that aren’t about the coronavirus to get a less lopsided view about what’s going on both in Canada and the world, two aim for a variety of reputable sources and three think more consciously about the frames those news stories and new sources are using, play devil’s advocate with ourselves and our favorite sources and get a little less comfortable with our biases in the process and so what American website I just discovered that seems like it might be helpful with this is called allsides.com and it publishes side by side stories on the same topic from sources across the political spectrum so everything from the Jacobin, to CNN, to the National Review and when you look at that it makes me much more aware of the frames that are being presented to me in the sources I usually read. So I suggest we might consider venturing outside our usual media bubbles even if we have to stay in our social distancing bubbles at least for now and I think I’ll leave it there for now thanks. Thanks Emma that was fantastic Thanks. You’ve given us lots to think about so I hope that folks who are watching are taking some time to type in their questions so we can come back to you later. Certainly from my perspective you gave me some insight into my own reading, I often read an article about coronavirus at or COVID-19 and find myself having an emotional response to it and I hadn’t been able to articulate for myself why that might be true and so the moral lens trying to read it through that vantage point I think will help me in digesting my own consumption about the media we’re getting. That takes us to the second speaker for today. I’ll invite Robert to join us and he’s going to explain the challenges of getting good information in times like this in its international setting. Great thank you very much Kim and thank you Emma that’s that’s great hopefully I can build on some of your points here and for I wanna start off by just asking students and alumni who are watching this, have you ever wondered why professors take marks off for not citing your sources or for not using good sources in your essays? The coronavirus pandemic is exactly why, because, viruses take advantage of certain situations and in global health we know very well that poorly structured healthcare systems, lack of sanitation are all key equations part of the equation but what we’re seeing now in this pandemic is that misinformation is another one of these structures that viruses take advantage of. We know about social distancing we know about self isolation and other measures to flatten the curve but what also matters is being vigilant against lies, misinformation and deceptions so as Emma talked about liens and and different Lenz’s within the media i want to talk about people who just dive straight into the BS department and just why? The United Nations has labeled it currently an infodemick where there is too much information, too much misinformation and too many lies circulating all at once

about a particular problem that’s what they define as an infodemic and the challenges is, that it makes it difficult to identify solutions or agreement to solutions for problems. Now unfortunately in 2020 the infodemic has spread just as fast as the pandemic itself, now infodemics are nothing new they occur in times of crisis or in conflict, only this time there are no bystanders, all of us are involved and even despite our incredible advancements in health research including vaccinology for the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments are still relying on ancient methods of Public Health in order to to deal with this crisis and what I mean specifically is quarantine Quarantine is something that dates back to the Book of Leviticus about separating the ill from the good of society and that’s about 500 BC or so it’s an ancient method about self isolation and and and distancing in this way and it comes with ancient problems, such as stigma. we’ve heard a lot about that in the news misinformation and also dissent from within society and that’s why in this new era of Public Health there emerges a new challenges such as misinformation that requires new methods Now you may recall in January images flooded the internet about a bat soup coming out of Wuhan the image was posted by celebrity blogger Wang Ling young and there was just one problem, the video wasn’t set in Wuhan at all, we’re actually bat isn’t even much of a delicacy. The video wasn’t even in China instead it showed Weyman Young and the host of an online travel show eating the dish in Palau Micronesia, South Pacific island nation. Now sampling the bat was just another one of her methods of this well-trodden adventurism, enthusiasm that she does on her show for unusual foods that we’ve seen that’s was reported very clearly by the Financial Post, but the thing is bats aren’t a common food source in Wuhan and it’s contested whether or not the Hunan seafood wholesale market actually sold bat meat and yet the UK’s Daily Mail and Russian television broadcast that assumption and misinformation world wide now the question is why? Why misinformed? Why not check the sources and let and you know check the sources before letting the story fly. Unfortunately it has been a growing habit in many news outlets where our reporters or columnist publish stories or opinion pieces without proper fact-checking, let alone making an effort to contact knowledgeable persons in the know, so why miss Informer lie in the first place? why do people lie? I mean are they just jerks? Sometimes, yes they are, but often people misinformed because it’s in their interest to do so and this is to say it’s in the simplest sense that people lie for two major reasons; in order to take advantage of a scenario or to avoid consequence. So if someone is spreading misinformation it likely it likely winds back to one of those two reasons for doing so So in this infodemic the question then is why is this information being told? What is its intent? Who takes advantage? To whose advantage and who’s trying to avoid consequence? Or – is it about maintaining health and well-being? Like what ways are we hearing information. Is it the information we hearing, is it really for someone’s advantage? Is it to avoid consequence or are we being told information for our own well-being? Unfortunately we’re in a state where we have to ask these questions not just of new sources but also of world leaders themselves. It’s not the first time that disinformation has been used in terms of global health crisis to take advantage of others if you go back in the history books you may Cold War history you may learn about operation infection and that’s a spell with a k’ that was set up by KGB operatives in the Soviet Union in the early 1980s to intentionally spread disinformation about the HIV/aids crisis in the 1980’s. The Soviet method of disinformation was actually pretty simple and it followed this sort of pattern which we can see can be repeated in today’s social media environment. Propaganda disinformation would first appear in a country outside of the USSR it’d be planted in a news story or an op-ed or maybe a conference proceeding and only then it would be picked up by a Soviet news agency itself which attributed it to others investigative journalists and that story came from a foreign source not widely known to be Soviet controlled or influenced that only added credibility to the allegations especially in impoverished and less impoverished and less connected countries which generally could not afford access to the Western news satellite feeds. Now this happened frequently in India and in Ghana where

the Soviet Union maintained a large propaganda and disinformation apparatus for covert media placements now in the case of operation infection it was to plan a report by a Bulgarian scientist that the U.S. secretly engineered the AIDS virus and that this was during a time when Soviet scientists themselves were reaching out to American scientists for help and understanding the virus, so that’s the idea about intentionally spreading this information, now aside from the James Bond tactics here misinformation from government is well rampant on a global scale. According to the Washington Post fact checker President Trump has made sixteen thousand four hundred and twenty-one lies or misleading statements in the first three years of his presidency, now that’s about 15 a day or more than one every other hour. During the pandemic the misinformation from the United States and particularly the White House not the CDC but the White House has been enormous from access to the president talking about access to tests,to timelines, to dismissing the viruses of flu, to saying that it was the previous administration’s fault, other conspiracy theories have trickled up they’ve emerged about this being a strategic bio weapon, US Senator Tom Cotton and Francis Boyle a law professor claimed the virus to be a viral weapon from China Conspiracy theories have run wild around the world as well and Iran saved Muhammad CD you accused US President Donald Trump of targeting the city of calm with coronavirus to damage the culture in honor of the country. On January 26th, Chinese military news site XI Lu published an article detailing how the virus was artificially combined by the U.S. to precisely target Chinese people. In the Philippines senator Tito Sotto played a bio weapon conspiracy video in February 2020 in the Philippine Senate hearing suggesting that the coronavirus was a bioweapon war from from China and Jair Bolsonaro arrow claimed that COVID-19 would not be a problem for Brazil. Venezuela constituent assembly member Elvis Mendez theorized that the virus was a weapon against latin america and that its purpose was to demoralize and to weaken their system. There’s been anti-muslim sentiment and violent it’s been reported at violence in India and Iran media has blamed Israel for engineering the virus So again why lie? It’s a reflection of a rather horrible state of international affairs. It reflects how the international system is structured to respond to enemies rather than problems and unfortunately there are a wide range of populist leaders in charge during this pandemic leaders who rose to power by sowing division sowing fear and sowing tension rather than raising to their status and power through cooperation and understanding and again back to turning and assignments to your professors if you submit work that lays blame through broad side accusations with no merit, you’ll probably get a terrible grade. If you write your papers about problems and ways to understand and approach the problem, you’ll often do well on the paper. So why do they miss inform? Why do people miss inform? It’s because these political leaders see it as a way to take advantage in the crisis or to deflect blame and a fortunate this behavior gets picked up quickly across social media platforms. Facebook and Twitter are now scouring their services to remove false medical information whatsapp has limited forwarding of messages to slow the spread of the disinformation and Amazon is working to remove the sale of any goods that claim to be a cure for COVID-19 so much like the Soviet engineering the seed is planted and then the information system itself carries it. It is why the way forward through through this crisis requires vigilance against information, rather than just vigilance against the virus itself. In Vietnam case reporting has been centralized so as to avoid competing or misinformation on statistics, daily briefings from public health officials around the world are important in being able to share the latest data but also in keeping the message clear and consistent and internationally the sharing of good information is essential so that countries can be informed on best practices and strategies for handling the pandemic. Reporting has been done carefully so as to be truthful and also to be mindful not to fuel any misinformation or stigma against populations. Racial attacks have been reported in the United States, the United Kingdom and across Canada especially the City of Vancouver reporting over 100 cases of hate drivin crime including one yesterday against a 92 year old man who is physically thrown out of a convenience store. So I just like to wrap up by saying that misinformation on a global scale is about disjuncture in politics. When leaders lie, they have as I have during the pandemic, it is for some opportunity or advantage, so how do we move away from he’s Jerry I’m working against a common problem we tear through policies of fear my solution either with or between borders, rather it needs to be about exploring a new politics of cooperation and trust and to look towards the leadership around the world is actually calling for that. Countries that openly value well-being over economic growth such as New Zealand,

Iceland, Finland countries like Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore who have been strict with quarantine enforcement but also forthcoming with compensation for it and of course was Cuba a country that is managing the pandemic domestically but also one that sends its own medical personnel to countries in need, be the rich countries or poor countries. So make no mistake the world delete the world deals with many problems COVID-19 is enormous one and if we’re going to get through this and future crisis we must find ways to take away the reward mechanism from misinformation and lies and begin to build frameworks around problems, not enemies and find incentive for truth cooperation and justice and building this kind of understanding well that’s why your professors made you write those essays, so you could get the skills, so we could value those skills it’s to be the best medicine during the pandemics and other crisis down the road thank you. Thanks Bob that was great and it takes us quite nicely to the exciting lie so with that I’ll invite Mike to join us Thank you that that does fit in really nicely with with a few things I want to talk about and I want to start by saying information is hard like information is something that most people spend a lot of their time grappling with either in the context of what they’re studying or like we have a whole degree program at Dal called a master of information we’re two years in a graduate program you study information and you learn a lot but you come out of that going wow there’s there’s still so much I don’t know so I’m gonna try to pull a few things out of what we study about the nature of information itself and and how that really changes the the nature of truth and and how truth and information spreads in general in response to to real world phenomenon phenomena or but in particular and in response to a pandemic. So I guess the first thing I want to say is is the pace of information that that we’re getting is is overwhelming right? Everyone’s talking about COVIED-19. I can’t remember a time when the Prime Minister and the Premier’s and the Public Health Authority we’re making daily announcements and and and the the announcements cover everything from health, to the number of cases to efforts to help people economically and so there’s just a ton of information out there and every one of those briefing generates articles and tweets and and and the worst part of all of this information is we want to keep up with it, right? Our brains are wired to pay attention to things that are changing quickly and and to watch the thing that is changing and to try to make some sense of it to find some pattern that, that’s natural, that’s normal and and when when the information that we’re seeing makes us angry or scared or sad we pay more attention to it we devote more of our time to it it’s part of our, fight-or-flight response, we’re trying to or seeing something that we’re worried is going to harm us and and we’re studying it to see to figure out how can we can respond effectively it’s natural it’s part of how our brains are wired but our brains didn’t evolve in a world with Twitter or other social media or 24-hour cable news so just to give you a sense of the numbers there’s about five million tweets a day about COVID-19, there’s been over half a billion tweets on that subject so far some of them are accurate and some of them are not but what I can tell you for sure is there’s no way to keep up with that, that’s just one social media platform and and so I guess my advice to you is that if you’re struggling with information and and and what to do with with truth and how to find truth and facts is to say the first stop, breathe, it’s okay you don’t have to read everything. This isn’t something we’re making sure that you read the latest hot take is gonna make you safer I, I don’t think that a permanent retreat from information is necessary or even helpful but you do need to manage your information diet very carefully and deliberately. Pick a few resources that you trust and focus on those, balance it to get some Emma talked about one type of balance right how the story is being framed and that’s an interesting way to balance your diet Building on Bob’s comments you can balance it by looking both locally and regionally and nationally and internationally you can balance it by looking at pieces that talk not only

about the human impact but also about the future and how the next six months might look and and and limiting your consumption don’t, don’t over consume information and and I should say if you find that you’re overwhelmed by anxiety or that you’re really struggling with this don’t be reluctant to get help it this is something that we know happens that this kind of information overload and can prompt mental health crisis and I just want to make sure that if if you’re feeling that that you’re looking for your local mental health supports whether that’s a phone line or someone in person and making sure that you’re reaching out. The second challenge of information that I want to talk about is is how the the truth, the simple fact can be so boring compared to the exciting untruth right? So if I if I tell you that dandelion tea will cure COVID-19 that’s exciting that’s a hard fact, that’s something I can hang my hat on, that’s something that makes me feel protected, suddenly you can’t wait for dandelions to show up in your lawn this spring but because I’m making it up I can say whatever I want I I can back that up with all of the information tell you that doctors in Italy are growing dandelions and Hospital sinks so that they can treat their patients right I can make it up and they’re they’re not by the way, this isn’t real, but, but how do you respond to that using facts and science? Well what we can say definitively is we don’t know if the dandelion tea is a cure or not there have been no studies that demonstrate that it’s secure there’s no evidence, that it’s secure, but that’s, that’s boring who’s gonna share that right that the only motive to share that is to get good information out there it’s not nearly as motivating as an excitement or an emotional response and so the the false information because it’s exciting is more likely to be spread far and wide and to go viral. A phrase I hesitate to use when talking about information and a pandemic the boring truth simply doesn’t win in a fair fight and to make matters worse good science and good medicine is, is constantly changing as we learn new information and so sometimes the latest good information contradicts yesterday’s our last week’s or last month’s good information and so but my advice here is is the stronger your emotional response to a piece of information the more you should think twice before you believe it and certainly before you share it. That’s not to say that there aren’t things that are true that will also evoke an emotional response I think that, that that we should just learn to associate that emotional response with a trigger for our critical thought even though those, those two things don’t always go together all that well and and finally information has certain properties right and we’ve we work in a university environment and we work in all educational environments to try to help people identify when information is of good quality and when it’s not, when it’s a reputable source and when that source isn’t reputable and and some of the the signals that we use are changing, so for example the the idea of information changing rapidly is sometimes a signal that that information isn’t true but in the context of a rapidly evolving and changing pandemic that signal isn’t as as reliable as it once was and the same thing is true about the source of the information so one thing about the pandemic is there’s a lot of smart people who can’t do or choose not to do what they normally do and so they’re talking about COVID-19 but but they don’t all know about disease and immunology or epidemiology the study of the spread of disease and so even well-intended, smart people doing things that they understand well like crunching numbers can also spread bad information and so people that we’ve come to trust as a reputable source of information about say the likelihood of the Montreal Canadiens making the playoffs are now offering opinions on the progression of a pandemic and that’s a, that’s a big shift and and it’s not clear that, that someone who’s normally a reputable source is in this case I like to point to the Elon Musk example right a famous smart person made money by being smart launching rockets into space and building self-driving cars those are smart things that people do, but it doesn’t study pandemics or the spread of disease and it has in fact been sharing information so false that that the links don’t even work anymore because Google and Twitter have shut them down because they’re trying to stop the spread of misinformation on their platforms and so

smart people aren’t smart about everything and that’s changing how we assess the quality of information that we’re consuming and and we’re being asked to do many, many, many new things during, during this pandemic and one of them is how we assess the quality of information. So my there’s lots of great fact-checking sites out there Snopes is working overtime on this there’s a dedicated canadian site COVID19MisInfo.org that’s tracking COVID related false information and if you have questions there are usually answers that will will help you find where the where the truth and where the fact lies in the information that you’re seeing I’ll leave it at that Thanks Mike so now it’s time to turn the conversation over to those who are watching. I’m looking forward to seeing the questions that you have so here’s one from Jennifer. How do you suggest balancing the need to take in a variety of media sources to avoid bias with the need to a limit the amount of news being taken in to protect mental health? Work out the kinks on the Facebook stare here okay so I mean I think that’s a really important question I have to admit that doing the research I was doing for this talk I felt myself getting very depressed and I felt like I had to kind of watch and read every news story that came down the pike and I watch a lot of news as it is read a lot of news as it is um I think you just you know sometimes you have to take a break but what I try and do and I think this sort of relates to both the other guests comments what I try and do when I’m trying to figure out what’s going on in the news is I look for common threads across sources that don’t normally agree with one another, so if you know the the National Post, the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail all feature the same fact now it might be wrong, but it’s less likely to be wrong than if only in the National Post or the Toronto Star do it right so that’s why I like looking at lots of different sources I’m less likely to get kind of lead down the garden path. Now that said there are some sort some stories that came out that were repeated over and over again as we’ve seen already in this, in this discussion I’m thinking of the ibuprofen story the story that ibuprofen could make the symptoms worse. I mean that was I think it was the Health Minister in France that first put that out on Twitter and it got picked up in the media and you know everybody published it so I was reading that thinking oh you know I better avoid ibuprofen and then later on it turned out to be, you know an iffy claim at best so like Mike was saying I think you know the the information evolves, if something is a blatant lie and you follow the news across a bunch of sources often the fact that it’s a blatant lie will come out somewhere eventually it be have a hermeneutic of suspicions as we call it in sociology about everything right interpret everything with a little bit of suspicion and I think that’s the way that I approach the news anyway don’t believe everything you read I guess if that helps at all, I don’t know if that helps your mental health I liken it to portion control where yes it’s hard to eat carrots when there’s so much pizza in the world but it’s okay to eat a little bit of both and so not not binging on social media or for example and focusing your or focusing your social media on those reputable sources or filtering out COVID-19 entirely from your social media all most of these platforms have a way to completely filter based on keywords and get all of your information about it from elsewhere all of these would be ways to to control the portion size that you’re getting from these different media channels Thanks. Let me ask you another question here I can see it doesn’t seem to be popped up but I can see it in my line so here’s one. We get a limited amount of international news in Canada should we be worried about what’s happening in other non-US non EU countries after all isn’t a pandemic global? Maybe I’ll ask you to kick off that one Bob Sure yes of course we should be very

concerned about the health consequences of this pandemic around the world I mean the pandemic has shown that it has complete disregard for borders and as such it’s going to be an invitation for both political leaders, for the international community and for individual citizens in media – to not just frame it within national boundaries. One of the, one of the problems that comes out every now and then in the US media I think in a response to such poor leadership in the White House has been trying very eagerly to compare what’s Finland doing? What’s Sweden doing? What’s the UK doing and they’re sort of talking about different responses kinda like moving chess pieces around on a board well it’s too late it’s it’s it’s too downstream from that and I think what if there’s any indication of what we should be taking away for how other nations are responding to it, is actually to see how they’re treating not the disease,not illness, but health itself. In many ways these sanctions, the sanctions while they are I guess but the quarantine is a cordon sanitaire, the isolation these are the general guidelines that have been put out and every nation has imposed them and is responding to them very differently in a place and places that have means and resources that can compensate people for going these conditions it’s working out better in places that are struggling economically, where there’s marginalization, where there’s massive inequality, a shelter-in-place order in a slum in Calcutta is going to have very different consequences than than you would in Hollywood so the the that’s I think what we need to take away is not just how are people reacting to this but really what’s the vision that other countries other societies have about health more generally. Thanks Bob. Here’s one from Kevin. Should a broadcast network refuse to air Trump’s COVID briefings if it is believed that the president is providing misleading or dangerous statements? What is the ruling principle that should be at work? I am going to go straight up yes on this The, the amount of disinformation just the off-the-cuff misleading one-offs that the president does is is harmful people people follow this guy’s word carefully and we’ve seen reactions in the streets and US capitals where people are out there not just breaking isolation bands but but but protesting quite violently about it so I think there needs to be some level of responsibility to say that this is a very special period pandemics are not a daily event there are once in every hundred years event and when it comes to it, the the ability to just say what you want without consequence has to be reconsidered, We’re talking about people’s health, we’re talking about maintaining well-being or Society and if you have a leader who can’t tell night from day there should be consequences for that Yeah I’m not sure about that I mean I I I think for entertainment value the Trump briefings are interesting but I think what’s really crucial is that you have people there that can counter the things that he’s saying and you can’t muzzle the guy unfortunately and we have daily briefings from many politicians in many different you know parts of the world so I don’t you know it’s a tricky one I know what to do with Trump, nobody knows what to do with Trump I think but at the very least you have to have a lot of critical commentary going on in the media. When he’s, when he’s coming out with blatant untruths on a daily basis Right is there a risk around that if if you’ve got someone who is taking to a podium with a lot of media attention giving out misinformation that that challenges directly one of the key tenants of public health which is the consistency and clear messaging that even if there are officials if it’s vouching if it’s a CDC who are there to say nope that was wrong, now that this is out in the world it now can it now invite some sort of a bias assimilation where people can start challenging the different sentiments based on non facts. Right I mean the thing about Trump is that he takes to Twitter when he wants to say something so I don’t think there is any way to shut him up I think the only thing to do is to provide plenty of critical commentary. The thing is what worries me is that anything Trump says no matter how many times it’s counteracted people who want to believe Trump will believe Trump and so this is the this is the kind of choosing of the new source problem that I was I was talking about. If we can get people to look at different kinds of news stories so not just Fox News but MSNBC right then people are going to get a more complicated picture but there’s this finalizing of me of news right now that

means that people are getting one message, all the time, from the sources that they’re looking at, so they believe it. Maybe let me change a little bit here and ask if we should worry about what’s happening in other news, so Emma your study suggested that the vast majority of the front-page news that we’re getting at least is about COVID what does that mean about what’s left? Mike one of your suggestions was people might weed out the COVID reading that they’re doing and focus on other things for a while as a way of giving themselves a break what do you think? Yeah I wouldn’t want to retreat entirely from consuming information about this I think given enough time that a dearth of information would be anxiety-inducing on its own but I I do think that there will be times where we will all need time to cleanse our palates if you will, from from the nonstop spread of news and and focus on something that’s different just just to not think about it for a little while Yeah I think I think that kind of combo of not just reading about COVID and it’s it’s good for us not just because we find out about other things that are going on in the world but it is a bit of a mental health break too. So here’s a question from Tamanna. How to determine which sources among Canadian news media to go out for when there are so many options on a provincial and national level especially for international students who have been very recently introduced to media outlets? Yeah I mean I think every there’s you’re spoiled for choice really there are plenty of Canadian news media outlets, again like that I mean that there is no AllSides for Canada at the moment as far as I know, it would be great if there was where you could see different sort of stories from different political persuasions across the spectrum of news coverage but I guess that would be my recommendation is to pick papers that that represent a range so I mean The Globe and Mail I would characterize the sort of red tori sort of a paper and the Toronto Star as a more left-wing paper and so they tend to cover quite different stories Globe and Mail covers more international stories I find them than either the national clustered the Toronto Star the ones that I looked at and then you know but you don’t get much local news so it depends what you’re after but I think at the very least it’s useful for people to read a news story that doesn’t always fit their political biases. Maybe I can squeeze one more in here you have to wrap up. What are some of the ways the members of the public can influence accountability for agencies and individuals spreading misinformation? Maybe I’ll ask each of you to take that one on because I can see how your comments each of your comments actually was connected in some ways to that question. Who’s going first? Mike. I think the individual one is a challenging one especially in a world where we aren’t talking to people in person right saying to your friend in person over coffee, hey what’s this nonsense you’ve been sharing on Facebook lately is a very different conversation than saying on Facebook what is this nonsense you’ve been sharing on Facebook lately and and that’s complicating our response to this to the individuals who are spreading misinformation but when they’re individuals that are known to us it having that kind of conversation if you believe it will be effective is a normal and healthy part of relationships to say I’m uncomfortable with some of the things that you’re you’re sharing and and where are you getting this information and can we talk as awkward as those conversations are I think that that for long-term relationships are especially important it’s also possible that there are individuals who you do not believe will stop spreading misinformation and I think then the the only dietary advice I can give you on that information is to stop consuming it and an accountability for agencies is certainly a much bigger question our mechanism for holding our government agencies accountable is through the political process and so that that involves elections and speaking to our elected leaders that’s where the AP accountability flows through and and that is an enormously complex and and difficult and and fraught way of holding an agency accountable but but it is I think

ultimately a good one in that it relies on a tried and tested and approach to managing accountability in the public sector where I’ll stop there other than to say that there’s a whole other hour-long thing we could do on governments and accountability. Great I, I think the question is when you when you’re exposed to information or misinformation the question is why are you being exposed to it the the the source of any sort of information if it is you have to be again vigilant and as Emma said you know home in that little bit of suspicion as well is this information being told to me for my benefit is it being told to me for someone else’s benefit or is it being told so I don’t blame someone else for that information and I think that’s that’s sort of the thing we got to be be aware of and if you feel that you’re in a situation where there’s doubt, there probably is doubt and that’s where we need to home in on our good old-fashioned research skills, cite your sources, check your facts and it might be an annoying process to do but if something really is worth having a conversation about or against then that’s that’s where to start I mean he just says some of the the points here were mentioned about how Elan Musk need to decide his sources better and and are government officials in France same deal unfortunately this is going to be part of the exercise for the next little while. Yeah and I guess just to echo a couple of points they’ve already made in a different way vote as Mike sort of implying that’s one way to kind of make your voice heard also I think subscribing to news sources that are providing really solid, responsible coverage news sources newspapers in particular are really struggling right now and they’re actually they’re advertising revenue has gone down even though they’re getting more clicks than ever because nobody wants their product associated with coronavirus right so um if you find that coverage is really balanced and really sound subscribe to that paper um and the other thing I do in terms of individuals is I refer people to snopes.com a lot and even though I do that fairly often I’m surprised at how few people know about snopes.com so if you read something on your Twitter feed or your you know Instagram or whatever that you think sounds a bit wonky look it up on Snopes and you know nine times out of 10 there’ll be something on Snopes about it so it’s a great resource. So thanks to Emma, Robert and Mike for their time today that’s all the time that we’ve got for this edition of the open dialog live events but we’re back again next week so please join us and a special thanks to our awesome interpreter Karina and to all of you who took the time to tune in today. Stay well and take care. Thanks

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