media release

SFU Public Square’s 2019 Community Summit tackles misinformation with Confronting the Disinformation Age

Flagship event April 16 brings David Frum, Sue Gardner and Christopher Wylie to Vancouver dialogue

March 25, 2019

Ian Bryce, University Communications and Marketing, 604.773.8134,



On April 16, Simon Fraser University’s Public Square will bring renowned thought-leaders David Frum, Sue Gardner and Christopher Wylie to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre as the flagship event of the 2019 Community Summit: Confronting the Disinformation Age.

The evening will feature Frum, Gardner, and Wylie—moderated by Ian Hanomansing, host of CBC’s The National—as they discuss how information is being co-opted, monetized, and polluted and the impacts on society.

“We’re experiencing an epidemic of disinformation facilitated by techniques that are increasingly sophisticated,” says Janet Webber, executive director of SFU Public Square. “Unfortunately, we are not yet well equipped to assess and respond in ways that are effective and appropriate.

“For this year’s summit, we’re bringing together thought-leaders, academics, government, industries and communities across Metro Vancouver to discuss how this impacts society and how we can identify and implement real solutions.”

Confronting the Disinformation Age will consider how information systems and the proliferation of disinformation impact society and challenges its capacity to make informed economic, social, and political decisions. Events will address topics such as populism and climate change, digital threats to democracy, right-wing extremism in Canada, enhancing digital literacy and rights, and the philosophy of fake news.

The Summit will run from Apr. 10 to 18 hosting 12 events over nine days.

The annual SFU Public Square Community Summit addresses a distinct issue affecting society, convenes people for knowledge exchange, and enables solution finding.

Tickets to Confronting the Disinformation Age and other Community Summit events are available through SFU Public Square’s website.



David Frum is the senior editor at The Atlantic. He served as a speechwriter and special assistant to President George W. Bush, as a senior foreign policy adviser to the Rudy Giuliani presidential campaign in 2007-2008, as a director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and as chairman of the board of the United Kingdom’s leading center-right think tank, Policy Exchange.

Sue Gardner is the executive director of The Markup. 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 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 organization with 70 million in annual revenues, and established Wikipedia as a reputable global information source that stood strong against attempts at censorship.

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.

Wylie is the former director of research for Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group, which was a UK-based military contractor specializing in information warfare. He witnessed first-hand how culture, information and algorithms were being weaponized by militaries, governments and companies to undermine elections around the world. In 2018, Wylie 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.

Ian Hanomansing is the host of CBC’s The National alongside Adrienne Arsenault, Rosemary Barton and Andrew Chang. Born in Trinidad and raised in Sackville, New Brunswick, the veteran host and reporter 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 14 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 hand-over (1997) the Slave Lake Alberta wildfire (2011), the Humboldt bus crash (2018) and seven Olympic Games, the most recent in Sochi in 2014.



A Special Philosophers’ Café – Apr 10

Presented in partnership with SFU’s Liberal Arts and 55+ Program, this dialogue about truth in the modern age will explore how lies and mistruths have been used to sway beliefs.

Competing Visions of Climate Populism – Apr 10

Presented in partnership with Media Democracy Days, Shane Gunster, Tara Mahoney, Bob Neubauer, and Paul Saurette will discuss how competing visions of extractive and ecological populism are shaping political debate in Canada.

Innovations in Research – Apr 10

Part of SFU Vancouver’s 30th anniversary, Innovations in Research is a dynamic evening that showcases SFU researchers and innovators who are designing solutions to confront the disinformation age. Hosted by Joy Johnson, SFU’s vice-president of research and international, the event features rapid-fire presentations, in-depth discussions, and interactive demonstrations by faculty, staff, students and alumni from across SFU’s faculties, departments, programs and campuses.

Is Social Media Destroying Democracy? – Apr 11

Presented in partnership with SFU’s School of Public Policy and the British Columbia Civil Discourse Society, this Oxford-style debate will explore the role public policy can play in regulating social media and democratic discourse and whether regulation will even work.

Working Towards an Inclusive Digital Society – Apr 12

This invitational interactive forum will address current practices, challenges and possibilities for justice-based approach to digital literacy education in communities that experience various forms of marginality across income, ability, health, gender and race.

Trumping Right-Wing Populism Canadian Style– Apr 12

Presented in partnership with Media Democracy Days, Barbara Perry, professor of social science and humanities at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and the director of the Centre on Hate, Bias, and Extremism, will discuss right-wing extremism in Canada and strategies that might be employed to challenge the current expression of hate fueled by the movement.

Face to Face(book) with Christopher Wylie – Apr 16

An event exclusively for high school and post-secondary students. Wylie will discuss cybersecurity, misinformation, and threats to democracy and answer questions from the audience.

An Evening with David Frum, Sue Gardner, and Christopher Wylie – Apr 16

Presented in partnership with Vancity, 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.

The Philosophy of Fake News – Apr 17

Presented in partnership with the American Philosophical Association, philosophers Endre Begby, Jennifer Nagel, and Regina Rini grapple with how disinformation works and poses a serious threat to our democratic institutions.

Youth Take Action: Digital Citizenship Day – Apr 17

Presented in partnership with Check Your Head, youth will learn about some of the key challenges and possibilities offered by the digital age both from industry leaders and their peers through a mix of engaging presentations and hands-on activities. Designed to supplement B.C.'s Digital Literacy Framework, this free event is intended for Grade 10, 11, and 12 classes from public schools across the Lower Mainland.

SFU City Conversations: When Facts Fail - Municipal Policy in the Disinformation Age – Apr 18

This special edition of City Conversations reflects on how policy formation and analysis has been disrupted in the disinformation age, and what can be done about it. Should public policy formation change to reflect new realities and what does this mean at the local level?

Fabricating Meaning – Apr 18

Presented in partnership with SFU Galleries, Eldon Yellowhorn and J. Steven Dodge will present their approaches to how language is used in science, as objective or embedded with cultural histories and subjectivities. This event is in connection with the current exhibition at SFU Gallery, Ann Beam and Carl Beam: Spaces for Reading, where the artists' works question the construction of history and knowledge through systems of classification and representation.



Numerous reports and studies have forecast ominous statistics regarding the current state of misinformation in digital platforms and public discourse:

  • Globally, 73 per cent of people are worried about false information or “fake news” being used as a weapon. (Edelman)
  • 70 per cent of Canadian internet users are concerned that fake news could impact the outcome of the next federal election. (Canadian Internet Registration Authority)
  • 48 per cent of Canadians say that they have seen fake news stories, significantly lower compared to the U.S. and most other countries. (Ipsos)
  • The Government of Canada recently announced an investment of $7 million towards improving the resilience of Canadians against online disinformation. (Open Parliament)



Community Summit

  • Each year, the SFU Public Square Community Summit addresses a distinct issue affecting society, convenes people for knowledge exchange, and enables solution finding.
  • Confronting the Disinformation Age is the seventh annual Community Summit, this year exploring how the proliferation of disinformation is impacting society and challenging our capacity to make informed decisions about our economic, social, and political lives.
  • This year’s Summit features 12 events over nine days.
  • Since 2012, SFU Public Square Community Summits have featured 63 events with over 24,000 attendees.
  • Former Community Summit topics have addressed: social isolation and belonging in urban centres; the economic future of British Columbia; innovation in the economy, environment, health and education; city building; Canada’s foreign policy and cultural role in the world; and the future of work.
  • Keynote lecturers at past Community Summits include Google’s Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil; urban theorist Richard Florida; former US Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter; CNN host Van Jones; former US Secretary of Labour Robert Reich; and former co-director of Planning for the City of Vancouver Larry Beasley.
  • Vancity Credit Union has partnered with Public Square on the Community Summit since 2012 to encourage civic discourse and engagement on important issues that impact our communities.


SFU Public Square

  • Launched in February 2012.
  • Part of SFU’s Strategic Vision to become the leading engaged university defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement.
  • Works to build an informed, empowered, connected and engaged citizenry by fostering reciprocity, trust and knowledge exchange among SFU’s communities and enhancing the community engagement capacity of SFU and its partners.
  • Involved in over 70 public events per year.
  • Keynote lecturers at past SFU Public Square events include Edward Snowden, Naomi Klein, and Wab Kinew.
  • Current programs include SFU City Conversations, SFU President’s Faculty Lecture Series, Metro Conversations and the SFU Vancouver Speaker Series.





As Canada's engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement. SFU was founded more than 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is Canada’s leading comprehensive research university and is ranked one of the top universities in the world. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey – SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 35,000 students, and boasts more than 155,000 alumni in 143 countries around the world.  


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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