Course description

We are in an era of unprecedented access to information via digital news, the internet, and social media. This also comes with significant misinformation — for example, in 2016, Oxford Dictionaries named ‘post-truth’ as its word of the year. Yet how prevalent is fake news, and how has this shaped modern politics? To what extent do “echo chambers” or the “backfire effect” exist as a result of social media, and are they interfering with our ability to separate fact from fiction? The course will first define the challenges faced, using examples of how misinformation affected elections
both historically and recently in the US, the UK, and Europe. It will survey academic studies in political behavior that analyze both how individuals consume political information from social media, and how partisanship and polarization are making the problem worse. The course will conclude by discussing the nascent policy solutions to combat the spread of fake news — from Facebook’s crowdsourcing initiatives to France’s proposed legislation regarding election campaigns. Through readings, discussions, and written assignments, students will learn how to better evaluate evidence when it comes to politics and policy. (CP)

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