Walker comments on disinformation and the arbiters of truth
Sustainability scholar Shawn Walker, assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences in the New College at ASU, has been quoted in a recent article on disinformation and conspiracy theories. The article, The Disinformation Vaccine: Is There a Cure for Conspiracy Theories?, appeared February 24, 2021, in Rolling Stone. The article discusses research by Cambridge University’s Sander van der Linden, who believes we can protect people against bad information through something akin to inoculation – a sort of truth vaccine. He calls his tactic “prebunking.” Walker, skeptical of applying concepts such as inoculation and herd immunity to disinformation, says the epidemiological approach risks overlooking the nuances and differences between online communities and how one form of intervention or solution might work in, say, a particular Reddit subgroup but not on Twitter. “There has to be thoughtful engagement and the understanding of the different balkanization of these communities,” Walker says. “Some you want to go in and engage, and some you don’t want to because it feeds the beast.” Walker goes on to explore the ethics around profit motives and the snuffing out of not just disinformation but unpopular opinions and inconvenient facts.