Disinformation is breaking democracy. Berkeley is exploring solutions.

November 30, 2023

Do a quick review of the top news for any day in the past 10 years and you’ll likely find that disinformation — barely disguised and often overt — has been a constant, powerful driver of political and social conflict in the U.S. and worldwide.

Consider a span of just a few weeks earlier this year: Fox News agreed to pay nearly $800 million to Dominion Voting Systems after it had falsely accused Dominion of aiding election fraud to swing the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden. A manipulated photo that seemed to show a bombing at the Pentagon emerged on Facebook and spread so fast that it sent shudders through the stock market. A study found that Twitter posts linked to the far-right QAnon conspiracy culthad nearly doubled. And fake photos of Pope Francis in a stylish white puffer jacket emerged on Reddit, then went viral.

The pope in a puffer? Naniette H. Coleman, a Ph.D. student in sociology at UC Berkeley, admits she fell for it and shared it with friends. Which is remarkable, because Coleman has spent much of her academic career mentoring students and advancing projects focused on information integrity.

Berkeley News