Watch CFOIC’s Sunshine Week conversation — ‘Truth Be Told: The Proliferation of Online Misinformation and Disinformation and What We Can Do About It’

For Sunshine Week 2021, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition hosted a lively and informative conversation about online misinformation and disinformation the evening of Thursday, Mar. 18.

Media strategist Nancy Watzman moderated the panel, which featured Alex Roetter, former senior vice president of engineering at Twitter; Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. Free Expression Programs for PEN America; and Damaso Reyes, journalist and media literacy expert.

Some snippets:

Roetter: “This is a very hard problem to solve, and you can’t solve it perfectly. But at the end of the day, these are companies worth tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars and if they wanted to tackle this problem seriously, they could make a real dent. I never saw a serious investment in this space and in fact was often pushed back on about what is appropriate to do, what is not appropriate to do.”

Benavidez: “We are in a culture where we call people out … and I often say, how do you call someone in? How do you actually ask them about their values, ask them where they got a piece of content, a news article or did they look at where that image came from if they’ve shared something that seems questionable? When you open up space for people to talk about that, it’s not confrontational and it’s not trying to convince someone of truth … Part of what we have to do is find ways to talk with each other.”

Reyes: “Being able just to determine categories of information, that’s now a basic survival skill that a lot of young people and, unfortunately, a lot of adults just don’t have. We really need to focus on kind of retraining ourselves to be literate in this very specific way.”

Watch the discussion on YouTube:

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Speaker bios:

Alex Roetter is an advisor, angel investor, and venture partner at Moxxie Ventures. He previously was president of Kittyhawk, developer of the Flyer electric VTOL aircraft, and senior vice president of engineering at Twitter.

Nora Benavidez guides PEN America’s national advocacy agenda on First Amendment and free expression issues. She is a lawyer by training and, prior to joining PEN America, worked in private practice as a civil and human rights litigator in Atlanta.

Damaso Reyes is the founder of Clarify.Media and a news literacy expert as well as an independent journalist. He was head of global partnerships for the News Literacy Project and has been published by the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, New York magazine, Der Spiegel, KSFR radio, the Miami Herald, and the Irish Times.

Nancy Watzman is a strategist specializing in developing and managing collaborations and partnerships to support journalists, technologists, and researchers in countering online dis- and mis-information, Clients include NYU Cybersecurity for Democracy and Democracy Fund. In 2020 she managed local journalists monitoring online misinformation working in five states, including Colorado. She is former director of and remains an adviser to the Colorado Media Project.

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