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PeaceTalks: What does the relationship between democracy and disinformation mean for Canada's election?

“The point of modern propaganda isn't only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” ― Garry Kasparov

A recent survey conducted by the Canadian Journalism Foundation found that 40% of respondents struggle to differentiate between real and false news stories. Many will recall the robocall scandal of the 2011 elections, directing Ontario voters to erroneous polling locations.

Meanwhile, Facebook Canada has refused to take down doctored content during the federal election campaign, while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg have ignored the subpoena to testify before the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy in Ottawa.

As we enter into a federal election season here in Canada, it raises the question of what role online media, propaganda, and disinformation will play. With many individuals increasingly aware of targeted ads, Facebook’s controversial data collection, and numerous other disinformation issues, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed.

At the end of June, PeaceGeeks hosted our forty-first PeaceTalk, to discuss this topic and attempt to bring some clarity and insight into disinformation — and what it means for Canada’s elections this autumn. Our panel included John Gray, the Co-founder of Mentionmapp and Misinfosec Working Group (Lead Contributor) at Credibility Coalition, Lindsay Sample, the Managing Editor at The Discourse, and Chris Tenove, a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of British Columbia.

Chris Tenove began our talk with a short presentation on disinformation and what the term encompasses. For Chris the definition given by the European Union is the best, stating that disinformation is “verifiably false or misleading information that is created, presented and disseminated for economic gain or to intentionally deceive the public and may cause public harm.” By contrast, misinformation is the unintentional sharing of misleading information.

Chris then divided disinformation into what he refers to as clear and fuzzy cases, explaining how this is still a “new universe” that is being discovered. Clear cases are the very obvious examples of manipulation such as false stories and claims, doctored images, bots, and fake accounts. Fuzzy cases are more difficult to identify, and encompass a wide range of topics such as distorted claims, hyper partisan or polarizing memes, online ads-leal but targeted, or leaks of private documents.

The issue with this extensive list is that it is not exhaustive, and we are still learning about the different forms disinformation can take. In an attempt to manage disinformation the Canadian government has implemented new election laws and large online platforms known to be heavily used prior to the campaign period have banned political ads until the writ is dropped.

Addressing such heavy topics can feel daunting, but despite this Lindsay Sample highlights the importance of journalism and the role journalists play in preventing mis/disinformation from spreading. Sample stated how fact checking alone isn’t going to change the game, it’s the first step but more facts aren’t going to solve polarization. She discussed how when we see certain topics, we are often responding with emotion, and therefore feeding facts to the issue will not always provide a solution or resolution. Instead, we have to learn how to actively engage in a meaningful way with people who disagree. The Discourse explores these different routes to engage in meaningful conversation.

The audience was left with an important thought to keep in mind, as individuals, communities and groups we can get worked up over a specific incident or event. This can divert our attention from other very important topics, that are less emotionally charged but can alter Canada’s political decisions. As we enter the elections period here in Canada, we must ensure that despite the  “big issues” we also pay attention to topics that are left on the back burner but important to how the elected party will make decisions for the next four years. 

As the evening came to a close, for many it left one big question: how do we engage with disinformation in a proactive way for the purpose of combating it?

Here’s where our forty-first PeaceTalk left off:

  • If you choose to engage, be prepared for all sides of the argument. There are a plethora of opinions and some may not align with you.
  • Do your research and make conscious decisions before reposting something.
  • Stay informed! If something seems questionable, look at reliable studies and garner a better understanding of the topic.
  • Don’t shy away from participating in conversations about disinformation! Actively engaging even with the idea of disinformation can help raise the awareness of misleading or false claims.
  • Ask questions when consuming media in all its various forms: does what I’m reading/seeing/hearing make sense? Does it seem like a fair claim? Is there evidence for the claim/statement being made?

For this PeaceTalk, we created a question wall and invited attendees to add their questions before, during, or after the talk. Some of the topics that popped up many times included: vulnerability to misinformation, social media's influence on elections (in Canada and in other countries), how we can learn from other countries’ successes, and potential solutions to mis/disinformation.

In order to give you the best responses, we’re compiling a ToolBox (with the help of our panelists) of some helpful resources to advocate for accuracy of information across the media. Below, you can find links to publications that were mentioned at the talk, as well as websites to help combat disinformation.

Information ToolBox:

Try out this game and test your disinformation skills!

Missed the talk? Watch it here.

Check out our awesome photos from the event here.

Follow our Panelists on Social Media:

This article was written by PeaceGeeks staff member Kate Morford.

Jul 23, 2019
Category:

Violence Against Women

Though women’s rights have progressed in the past 100 years, violence against women is still a global phenomenon. Amnesty international reports that one-in-three women worldwide will be physically, sexually or otherwise abused during their lifetime. These numbers are also reflected among Canadian statistics, with 67% of all Canadians reporting that they know at least woman who has been sexually or physically assaulted. Despite a 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of violence against Women by the UN, the problem still persists today.

The violence that women face globally includes genital mutilation, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, domestic violence and rape. Globally, and here in Canada, domestic assaults and homicide from an intimate partner or family member is disparate towards women. Globally 70 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual assault from an intimate partner, and in Canada 83% of all police-reported domestic assaults were against women. For homicides, in 2012 on a worldwide scale of all female homicides nearly half were committed by an intimate partner or family member. In Canada of 89 spousal homicides in 2011 over 85% of victims were women. A prime example of how Canada is not adverse to this global issue of violence against women is the case of 582 missing or murdered Aboriginal women. Between 2000 to 2008 10% of all female homicides were aboriginal women despite accounting for only 3% of the Canadian female population.

 

Though violence itself is not a gender-specific issue, the threats facing women are unique and deep seated in gender discrimination. In many instances laws are not in their favour of women or not in accordance with international standards. Specific to these issues is the reluctance of women who experience violence to step forward and ask for help or report the abuses. Under 40% of women actually do search for help, those who do most likely turn to friends and family and only 10% go to the police.

As international organizations work to collect more data on this issue and strengthen laws and institutions globally, is there space for technology to contribute to alleviating this issue? Local Vancouver companies and global companies are using apps, GPS, mobile phones and other technology as tools to empower women to contribute to their safety and security. Join PeaceGeeks on March 9 for our 32nd PeaceTalk to learn more about how tech is working to end violence against women.

 

 

Mar 5, 2016
Category: Thematic Issues

After Paris: Canada's Continued Commitment to Refugees from Syria and the World

There are an estimated 60 million refugees and internally displaced people in the world today.

An estimated 9 million Syrians have fled their homes since the onset of civil war in the country in 2011. Most remain internally displaced with the UN estimating there are 12.2 million people in need of humanitarian aid within the wartorn country.

A further 4 million have fled to neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Turkey alone hosts more than 2 million refugees.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees are making their way into Europe; Germany has resettled close to 700,000 so far in 2015.

The numbers are overwhelming. The statistics sometimes drown out the stories, rendering the crisis impersonal, distant and foreign. It is hard for the average citizen in a peaceful, prosperous country to empathize with each victim of war, natural disaster, and famine.

And yet, it is the human stories of the Syrian crisis, the faces and names, that have struck the deepest chords. The body of little Alan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach, galvanized the global media and started a long overdue conversation about the fate of Syrian refugees and the responsibilities of Western nations.

The attacks in Paris initially threatened to derail that conversation, triggering xenophobic backlash in many places. Fortunately, the tragedy has also served up examples of compassion, tolerance and humanity. President Hollande of France recently announced that his country will be increasing the number of refugees it accepts this year from 24,000 to 30,000 - an increase of 25%.

And while the Syrian refugee crisis currently holds the Western world’s attention,  it is important to realize that Syrians are not the only refugees in the world nor are they the only ones that Canada receives. In 2014, Canada admitted 2,890 Iraqi refugees. When listed by the number of refugees admitted to Canada in 2014, Syria was actually sixth. Canada admitted 1,290 refugees from Syria, compared to 1,725 from Eritrea and 1,340 from the Congo.

When we consider the role that Canada plays in addressing the global refugee crisis, we have to look beyond the numbers. Canadians are often unaware of the reality refugees face on arriving here. And that's after they undergo an intense and time consuming process.

Government assisted refugees in Canada have to pay their own refugee application fee, airfare and any costs related to mandatory medical examinations. Those who are not able to do so may receive loans from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada. These must be paid back with interest; some refugees end up with rates as high as 9%. For a group with unemployment rates twice as high as the national average, this can be extremely difficult.

Canada is known as a welcoming country for immigrants, often attracting the most immigrants per capita of the G8 countries.  And yet, Canadians are remarkably intolerant of illegal immigration, with two-thirds of Canadians favouring deportation for illegal immigrants, compared to only one quarter of Americans.

With our secure southern border, the Arctic to the north and ocean to the east and west, Canada is in a position of privilege when it comes to being selective about who we allow within our borders. This begs the question - how much of our open-door policy is predicated on geography?

Prime Minister Trudeau has vowed to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by year’s end. He is facing opposition on multiple fronts, from premiers to petitions from citizens asking that refugees not be resettled in their areas. But there are reasons for hope. Expressions of solidarity and compassion shine out from the racism and fear. Here in Vancouver, a local real estate developer is refurbishing and furnishing a property he owns to provide temporary accommodation for refugees. Many Canadian media outlets have stepped up to remind us that we are a nation of immigrants and refugees, an important fact to remember in the face of the current refugee crisis. In the face of concern about extremist terrorists entering Canada via the refugee process, the Globe and Mail offered this:

Canada’s best defences against radicalization are its inherent decency, its generosity and its acceptance of all cultures. Our values, and our expression of them, have never been more important than now.

Written by Jasmine Sealy and Shannon Waters

Nov 22, 2015
Category:

PeaceTalk #25: Canada, Climate Change and Conflict

Guest Speaker:
Soudeh Jamshidian, Guido Corno
Date:
Mar 11, 2015
Time:
6:00 - 7:30PM
Venue:
HiVE Vancouver

The security of communities, nations, and the entire global community is increasingly jeopardized by environmental threats due to climate change. Weather events are becoming more extreme, droughts are becoming more severe, water is becoming scarcer, and coastlines are shifting.
While northern and southern countries both contribute to these effects, they tend to experience these impacts unevenly – an imbalance that leads to development challenges and security implications that must be viewed as a matter of economic, social, and political concern.
Please join us on March 11th as a panel of experts comes together to discuss how climate change and environmental management could affect domestic and international stability in both a political and economic context. We will be looking at links among local, national, and international behaviour as well as at strategies to adapt to a changing world.
This event will also be Livestreamed.

Speaker Bio

Soudeh Jamshidian, Post-conflict and post-colonial environmental management expert
Soudeh Jamshidian is a social entrepreneur and environment expert, currently doing her PhD at the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University. Soudeh’s professional life started at the age of 19 when she founded an environmental NGO called Daumoon in Iran, which continues to operate today. She has an extensive experience working on co-management and community development as well as policy making and awareness raising programs for environment management. She has worked as a project designer, manager and consultant for United Nations Development Program’s the Global Environment Facilities. She has also worked as environmental education and outreach expert for the United Nations Environment Programme in Afghanistan.

Guido Corno, United Nations Development Programme
Guido Corno received a Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography, minor in Natural Resource Management, from Oregon State University. His research analyzed and determined the effects of El-Niño and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation on oceanic primary productivity in the North Pacific, as well as the associated socio-economic consequences.
Motivated by his desire to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and policy development to best serve societies in their own development, Dr. Corno has been applying for the last 10 years his analytical and technical skills to the field of climate change adaptation and international sustainable development.
Prior to his recent position in Haiti as Climate Change and Policy Expert for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), he worked in various countries (Afghanistan, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Niger, Sudan, Turkmenistan), overseeing climate change adaptation, natural resource conflict resolution, and capacity-building for low carbon-resilient policies in various international development organizations UN Environment Program, FAO, U.S. National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Agency and the Global Environment Fund.
Recently, Dr. Corno has been working on adaptation policy for fisheries to ocean acidification to investigate political, social and scientific barriers to climate change adaptation, and propose sound decision-making process for climate change policy, under uncertain scientific conditions and scenarios.
During his spare time, Dr. Corno enjoys the outdoors, sailing, travelling and acting.

Moderator Bio

Deborah Glaser, Senior Policy Analyst, BCCIC

Deborah joined BCCIC in 2014. She most recently worked on regional and global climate change adaptation strategies through integrated watershed management planning. During this time, she founded the Mediterranean Cities Climate Change Consortium (MC-4), an international network for building resiliency to climate change among cities in the five Mediterranean-climate regions. Prior to that, she worked on development projects in West and Central Africa, Latin America, and across Small Island Developing States. Deborah holds a Master of Environmental Science & Management with an emphasis on the Political Economy of the Environment and International Climate Change from the Bren School at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Deborah is from California and takes every opportunity to explore the outdoors, travel, read, and eat.

Thank You To:
Partnership With:
Feb 18, 2015
Category: PeaceTalks
Time 2:
6 PM
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