Fake News: The Facts

Thursday 25 May 2017, 7pm | Emmanuel Centre

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Fake News: The Facts

In the final three months of the US presidential campaign more people on Facebook engaged with fake news stories about the election than they did with stories from fact-checked news outlets.

This is the world we now live in. Fake news is becoming the main source of information for many people. Of course there have always been made-up or inaccurate reports in the news. But in the past, once a story was exposed as a lie, it died. Now it lives on, with much of the public seemingly indifferent to a story’s truth. No wonder the Oxford Dictionary made ‘post-truth’ its word of the year in 2016. Misinformation has become part of our everyday politics. Through the amplification of social media, fake news travels fast and far.

Take Vote Leave’s claim that the UK would save £350m a week through Brexit, which kept its hold on the public’s imagination even after it was refuted. Or the ‘birther’ movement in America, which claimed that President Obama was not born in the US, a view that has persisted among millions of Americans even after Obama produced his US birth certificate.

So how do we combat these ‘alternative facts’? Many claim that fake news is threatening not simply the authority of the ‘mainstream media’, but the very workings of democracy. If Facebook and Google were to try and sift out fictitious reports from our newsfeeds and online searches, what hope would they have of succeeding? Can newspapers and political institutions do anything to restore faith in facts?

To tackle these and many more questions, Intelligence Squared is bringing together a star panel, including Armando Iannucci, the celebrated Oscar-nominated creator of satirical political comedies Veep and The Thick of It. He will be joined by Tim Wu, the former White House adviser and internet law expert, and Craig Silverman, BuzzFeed’s media editor and one of the world’s foremost analysts of fake news. Chairing the panel will be Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland.


Armando Iannucci

Screenwriter, journalist and broadcaster, who has written, directed and produced many critically acclaimed television and radio comedy shows. Creator and writer of the Bafta-winning BBC political comedy series The Thick of It, and the Emmy-winning HBO White House comedy series Veep. His screenplay for the film In The Loop was nominated for an Oscar.

Craig Silverman

Media editor of BuzzFeed News, and founding editor of BuzzFeed Canada. He leads BuzzFeed’s analysis into the phenomenon of fake news and is one of the world’s foremost experts on its emergence. He is the author of Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech. He trains journalists all over the world in digital verification and debunking.

Tim Wu

Professor at Columbia Law School, known for his influential work on ‘net neutrality’ theory and his role as an adviser to President Obama. In 2013 he was named one of America’s 100 Most Influential Lawyers. His books include The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires and The Attention Merchants: How Our Time and Attention are Gathered and Sold. He has testified before the US Senate that ‘Google is manipulating its search in an anti-competitive way’.

Remaining speaker to be announced.


Jonathan Freedland

Guardian columnist, broadcaster and author.


Speakers are subject to change.