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March 6-7, 2012



As the networked media environment increasingly permeates private and public life, driven in part by the rapid and extensive travels of news, information and commentary, our systems for identifying and responding to misinformation and propaganda are failing us, creating serious risk to everything from personal and financial health to fundamental democratic processes and governance. In this age when many would argue that news and information have become key ingredients of broad social progress, our supply is tainted. Concerns about misinformation and disinformation are nothing new. Indeed, many tried and true techniques for disseminating misinformation remain just as vibrant in our current communications and information era. But digital media present new challenges to existing institutions, structures and processes, jeopardizing its potential contributions to the health of political, economic, and social systems.

While opinions differ over how digital media ameliorates and exacerbates the spread and influence of misinformation, this multifaceted issue persists in the face of thoughtful, sustained, and creative responses—and demonstrates a great diversity of manifestations, roots, and harms. The motives for spreading misinformation are many. They may be partisan or commercial, may derive from or evoke moral and religious sensibilities, may offer political or social commentary, or may be merely whimsical. But what to do? Building upon recent convenings and a number of related projects, we are taking a critical step towards a deeper understanding of the problem with a keen eye towards collectively identifying novel solutions and concrete actions to combat the deleterious impacts of misinformation in the near term and over time.


This symposium will focus on exploring the many facets of this complex issue with an eye to crafting tools and strategies to ameliorate the negative impacts of deception, bias, and inaccuracy in the digital media ecosystem. We hope to come to a better position to take advantage of the benefits promised by digital media while appreciating the positive aspects of creative media-making and probing the blurred boundaries between nefarious and beneficial media shaping practices.

From academics to activists, techno geeks to policy geeks, and media scholars to media makers, participants will span a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds and expertise to promote cross-disciplinary learning and to facilitate the formation of novel and holistic approaches to these complex issues. The one-day public conference will include approximately 100 participants to balance inclusiveness with a participatory setting. It will draw upon a variety of formats to complement the topics, disciplinary approaches, and available participants, including selected presentations, case studies, tool demonstrations, and roundtable discussions. We hope to provide ample white space between sessions for people to process ideas, connect with one another, and generate new insights and approaches regarding the nature and complexity of the problem, relevant narratives and illustrative use cases, new areas of vulnerability and concern, and the relative merits of existing strategies to combat misinformation.

The final session on March 6, 2012 is intended to provide a bridge between the day’s discussions and the Hack day, with a focus on interventions, tools, and useful strategies for a variety of users operating in today’s digital communications environment. Hosted at the Media Lab, the Hack Day will provide for a series of working sessions, informed by the conference and designed to maximize focus and productivity. It will endeavor to conceive and prototype tools, processes and other resources to confront the challenges identified in the previous days.


We are delighted to have a diverse range of experts, scholars, commentators, practitioners, and users as participants and speakers in the Symposium. Our hope is to create a highly interactive environment that will encourage conversation, provocation, debate, and input from all participants throughout the day. We will provide numerous mechanisms for commentary, both in the lead up to and after the symposium, from our blog to the Hack Day on March 7, 2012. Moderators and session leads will also be looking to the crowd to deepen and enrich all sessions and approach these complex issues from multiple dimensions, disciplines, and perspectives.


Please add links to papers, articles, blogposts, and other items related to internet misinformation and of interest to symposium participants to this page. Users need to create an account to edit this wiki -- click on the link in the top right corner of this page to obtain a username/password.


Food for Thought dinners are self-organized gatherings that allow conference attendees to engage in informal, themed conversation with other conference participants, and will take place on Tuesday, March 6th after the cocktail reception. Please note that attendees will pay their own dinner costs.

  • If you would like to propose / organize a food for thought dinner:
    • Please add the proposal in the one of the slots below, with your name and contact information
    • Attendance is limited to eight people per dinner, including the organizer
    • Choose a restaurant and make a reservation by 3:00pm on Tuesday, March 6th
    • We'll be reserving tables at the following restaurants:

  • If you would like to join one of the dinners:
    • Add your name to one of the slots below by 3:00pm on Tuesday, March 6th
    • If you decide not to attend a dinner to which you are signed up, please delete yourself from the list.
  • For restaurants in Harvard Square, expect approximately a 10 minute walk from HLS campus. For restaurants in Porter Square, expect approximately a 15 minute walk.

In Vino, Veritas...?

  • 7:30pm, The Restaurant Chang-Sho, 1712 Massachusetts Ave
  1. Daniel Jones
  2. Rebekah Heacock
  3. Becca Tabasky
  4. Jim Fingal
  5. Muzammil Hussain
  6. Michael Conover
  7. Insert name
  8. Insert name

Josh Benton/Craig Silverman, What does a good online debunking page look like?

  • 7:30, Tamarind Bay, 75 Winthrop St
  1. Josh Benton
  2. Craig Silverman
  3. Aaron Naparstek
  4. Austen Levihn-Coon
  5. Insert name
  6. Insert name
  7. Insert name
  8. Insert name

Tractable Tools and Experiments

  • 7:30pm Grafton Street: 1230 Massachusetts Ave
  1. Nick Diakopoulos
  2. Paul Resnick
  3. Sidharth Chhabra
  4. Holly Teresi
  5. J. Nathan Matias (@natematias)
  6. Elena Agapie


We welcome you to submit a blogpost for our conference website before, during and after the event. If you’re interested in submitting a blogpost, please contact Berkman staff members Amar Ashar (ashar at or Kori Urayama (kurayama at ).
  • Blogposts should ideally:
    • Be 250-1,000 words in length
    • Can cover any issues, phenomena, visions, or questions that you think may be helpful in understanding a host of topics that will (or should) be dealt with at the conference;
    • Could include interesting examples of tools of misinformation, historical or new-media focused case studies, or focus on a specific mode, process or method—something that you are excited about;
    • Be new and original, but cross-postings are welcome/encouraged.