Big, If True Webinar: Two Truths and a Lie: Misinformation and Public Health

Big, If True Webinar: Two Truths and a Lie: Misinformation and Public Health

April 24, 2020

Friday, April 24, 2020 – This week Big, If True welcomed Ashish Jha, Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute in conversation with Setti Warren, Executive Director of the Shorenstein Center and former Mayor of Newton MA.

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.

In this webinar, we discuss: what do public health advocates need to know about misinformation? How will misinformation influence people’s behaviors? What ways should local governments communicate to residents? How can public health professionals and local officials work together to share life-saving recommendations during the infodemic?

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.

As the Mayor of Newton, Warren developed many key governance strategies and understands the issues posed by COVID-19. Setti Warren was the deputy state director for Senator John Kerry’s Massachusetts office (2004-2008), national trip director for Kerry for President (2003-2004), and held numerous positions in the Clinton White House (1997-2000). From 2000 to 2002 he served as New England regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).


Hosted by Joan Donovan, PhD, Big, If True is a seminar series presented by the Technology and Social Change Research Project (TaSC) at the Shorenstein Center.

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Dr. Donovan’s research specializes in Critical Internet Studies, Science and Technology Studies, and the Sociology of Social Movements. Dr. Donovan’s research and expertise has been showcased in a wide array of media outlets including NPR, Washington Post, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, ABC News, NBC News, Columbia Journalism Review, The Atlantic, Nature, and more.

The TaSC Project researches media manipulation, disinformation, political communication, and technology’s relationship to society. The research team is composed of subject matter experts, Brian Friedberg, an investigative ethnographer of online social worlds, Gabrielle Lim, a researcher of sociotechnical systems and information controls, and Rob Faris, co-author of Network Propaganda and researcher of large-scale media ecosystems. The TaSC Project aims to understand how media manipulation is a means to control public conversation, derail democracy, and disrupt society. The project 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. The project is creating a research platform called the Media Manipulation Case Book, which will include 100 case studies to advance our knowledge of how misinformation travels across the web and platforms.