Misinformation vs Dissent is a topic I’ve been interested in throughout this pandemic. Of course this topic extends to topics beyond COVID-19, but for my line of work, its relation to the pandemic and what/how information is relayed to the public is of most interest to me. If you are new to my opinions on this topic, which are ever evolving as I seek new information, you can start by reading my piece here. I also read it out loud in a video on my tiny Youtube channel.
How misinformation vs dissent ties into online censorship is also an interest of mine. I plan on writing an update or like a “Part 2” to my linked piece above, but I think our war on misinformation, which has included widespread censorship, has actually made things worse by driving the misinformers ( and the dissenters) to alternative channels of communication that turn into echo chambers. Stay tuned for a more detailed analysis on that, but what’s happening as a result of our efforts is a bit of a logistical nightmare. A backfire. An “Oh shit.” Hence, I increasingly support the democratic policing of online posts, meaning this: Let the comments do the work. Let the comments be the judge. The internet is too vast and fundamentally democratic to block people from posting and participating. Therefore, let it all hang out. I do make exceptions to blatant hate speech, threats, sexual harrassment and racism. Those things should be flushed away.
In episode 76 of my budding podcast Causes or Cures, I discussed this idea of misinformation vs dissent with Dr. Joe Schwarc. We discuss who and what are credible sources today; who or what should be censored and the slippery slope of censorship; who defines misinformation; things that fact checkers have gotten wrong; what to do about dissenters and why not have conversations with them; how to distinguish between dissent and misinformation; what to do about anecdotes, and how one measures the impact of misinformation. We hear a lot about the dangers of misinformation, but what measurement are we using to actually put a number on its impact?
Who is Dr. Schwarcz?
The coolest part is that he started out in life as a magician…then went on to chemistry. He is Director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society which has the mission of “separating sense from nonsense.” The office is currently focused on determining what is misinformation and what is not regarding COVID-19. Dr. Schwarcz is also a spokesperson for ScienceUpFirst, a national initiative funded by Public Health Canada, whose mission is to weed out COVID-19 misinformation. Dr. Schwarcz is also a chemistry professor, hosts “The Dr. Joe Show” on Montreal’s CJAD and has appeared hundreds of times on The Discovery channel, CTV, CBC, TV Ontario and Global Television.
I hope you guys listen to the podcast and let me know what you think. It’s an incredibly important topic for numerous reasons that everyone should care about. It will impact you one day, in one way or another. And as always, thanks for listening, please feel free to share, and email me any feedback. I don’t always have a chance to respond to people as life is very busy these days, but I read all your emails and reflect.
You can listen to the episode here!