Confronting the Disinformation Age

with David Frum, Sue Gardner, and Christopher Wylie

2019, Summit Confronting the Disinformation Age, Media + Information

Keynote event for the 2019 Community Summit: Confronting the Disinformation Age

SFU Public Square and Vancity are proud to co-present Confronting the Disinformation Age, featuring Canadians David Frum, Senior Editor at The Atlantic; Sue Gardner, Executive Director of The Markup and former Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation; and Christopher Wylie, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, in a conversation moderated by the CBC’s Ian Hanomansing.

Information, though fundamental to our existence, has always been vulnerable to manipulation. Today, in what many are calling the “post-truth” era, we’re witnessing an epidemic of disinformation. How did we get here? To what extent has instantaneous access to facts and data eroded, rather than enhanced, our ability to trust others and make informed decisions?

Leading thinkers Frum, Gardner and Wylie will discuss how information is being co-opted, monetized, and polluted in our current context and the impacts on our society. Join us for an informative evening during which we will consider the distortion of our information landscape and how we can all work together to confront it.

Tue, 16 Apr 2019

7:00 PM (PST)

Queen Elizabeth Theatre
630 Hamilton Street
Vancouver, B.C.

We respectfully acknowledge that this event takes place on the Unceded, Traditional, Ancestral Territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ, kʷikʷəƛ̓əm, and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm First Nations.

About Confronting the Disinformation Age

SFU Public Square’s 2019 Community Summit considered how the proliferation of disinformation is impacting society and challenging our capacity to make informed decisions about our economic, social, and political lives. Together, we co-created strategies to ensure stronger and healthier information ecosystems and stimulate more connected and resilient communities.

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The Disinformation Age
Information is fundamental to our existence. Without it, we cannot understand or effectively respond to the events that shape our world. Throughout history, campaigns to deliberately spread false information to influence public opinion or obscure the truth have been launched by individuals, organizations, and governments. But today, we’re living in a new age of information facilitated primarily by digital technology. These advancements offer us extraordinary access to facts and data but also allow for harmful, inaccurate, and manipulated information to be created and disseminated at an unprecedented speed, scope, and scale. Falsehoods are pitted against facts in competition for our attention and technology is used to exploit our cognitive functioning without repercussion. In what is being called the “post-truth” era, the distortion of our information landscape is eroding our trust in institutions, political systems, the media, and each other.


David Frum

One of the most influential political analysts of our time, David Frum brings a rational conscience into the mainstream and the often-polarized world of American politics. Whether it is the latest foreign policy debate or the inner workings of the White House, David Frum offers refreshing and clear insights of complicated issues of the day. As the Senior Editor at The Atlantic and the author of New York Times Bestseller Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic, David’s commentary on social and political issues generates thought-provoking discussions throughout America and around the world.

As a speaker, David has the rare ability to engage audiences at a deeper level: that of their belief systems. Even if you do not agree with his views, David’s encyclopedic knowledge of hot topic issues is unmatched. Audiences appreciate his thought-provoking style and ability to boil complex subjects into digestible bites. David’s deeply researched and thoughtful talks are also laugh-out-loud funny. In his quest for the truth, David has been a long-time advocate for shaking up the polarized U.S. political system. He provides fascinating insight into what political outcomes mean for specific audiences around the world.

Sue Gardner

Sue Gardner’s work is motivated by the desire to ensure that everybody in the world has access to the information they want and need, equipped to make the best possible decisions. She asks us: what can we do as citizens to change the Internet back to a place that truly is for everyone, inspiring creativity, freedom, and innovation?

Gardner spent the first decade of her career as a journalist, working in radio, TV, print and online. In 2003 she was appointed head of CBC.CA, the website of one of Canada’s best-loved cultural institutions, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In 2007, Gardner became executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that operates Wikipedia, the world’s largest and most popular encyclopedia. In her six years with Wikimedia she grew it into a healthy sustainable organisation with 70 million in annual revenues, and established Wikipedia as a reputable global information source that stood strong against attempts at censorship.

Today, Gardner serves as executive director of The Markup, breaking stories on how profiling software discriminates against the poor and other vulnerable groups; about internet health and infections, like bots, scams and misinformation; and finally shedding light on the unreasonably high power of tech companies.

Christopher Wylie

Christopher Wylie is a social researcher and data scientist. He has served as a senior adviser in both the British and Canadian governments, and has extensive experience using technology to improve communication and citizen engagement. With an avid interest in cultural applications of technology, his postgraduate research focused on fashion trend forecasting.

Christopher is the former Director of Research for Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group, which was a UK-based military contractor specialising in information warfare. He witnessed first hand how culture, information and algorithms were being weaponised by militaries, governments and companies to undermine elections around the world. In 2018, Christopher worked with The Guardian and New York Times as a whistleblower to expose how social media data was being exploited and turned against ordinary citizens.

Time 100 nominated Christopher for his work revealing the risks posed by unfettered data misuse and the growing power of large technology companies. His testimonies at the United States Congress and British Parliament served as a wake up call for many and have quickly led to new legislative proposals in both countries. Christopher is a graduate of the London School of Economics and lives in London, UK.


Ian Hanomansing

Ian Hanomansing hosts THE NATIONAL, alongside Adrienne Arsenault, Rosemary Barton and Andrew Chang. Born in Trinidad and raised in Sackville, New Brunswick, veteran host and reporter Ian Hanomansing began his broadcasting career at CKDH Radio in Amherst, Nova Scotia, working at radio stations in Moncton and Halifax before joining CBC in Halifax in 1986. His assignments took him to Toronto the following year and eventually to Vancouver, where he was a national reporter for fourteen years.

Among his major assignments: the Exxon Valdez oil spill and San Francisco earthquake (both in 1989), the Los Angeles riot (1992), Vancouver's two Stanley Cup riots (1994 and 2011), the Hong Kong handover (1997) the Slave Lake Alberta wildfire (2011), the Humboldt bus crash (2018) and seven Olympic Games, the most recent in Sochi in 2014.


Watch the keynote

Christopher Wylie interview on The National

Interview begins at 33:40

Confronting the Disinformation Age | Trailer

Whistleblower Christopher Wylie on creating social media "fire codes" – CPAC

Christopher Wylie explains how AI can manipulate political discourse – CPAC

In the News

Confronting the Disinformation Age was broadcast on CBC's Ideas (May 23, 2019)

Data Diviner Christopher Wylie—of Cambridge Analytica Fame—Decries Online Segregation — Kate Wilson, The Georgia Straight (May 8, 2019)

SFU Community Summit Explores How Disinformation Undermines Society and Democracy — Charlie Smith, The Georgia Straight (April 25, 2019)

Beware the ‘Weaponized’ Web, Says Guy Who Helped Elect Trump — Zoë Ducklow, The Tyee (April 19, 2019)

Confronting the Disinformation Age — Claire Atkin, Medium (April 17, 2019)

Reports and Resources

Confronting the Disinformation Age | Resources

Books, articles, videos and other resources on disinformation.

Presenting Sponsor

Supporters and Partners

Media Partner

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