Renowned news anchor visits Queen’s

Ali Velshi talks difference between misinformation and disinformation

Ali Velshi at Stauffer Library on March 5.
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As a part of the Stauffer@25 speaker series, Ali Velshi, a Canadian television journalist and co-anchor on MSNBC, visited campus Thursday afternoon to speak about misinformation and disinformation in Stauffer Library.

Around 60 people attended the event, meeting full capacity in the Alan G. Green Fireplace Reading Room.

During the talk, titled “The Pursuit of Truth in a Post-Fact World,” Velshi dove into discussions about the distinctions between real and false news. By dividing the lecture into two categories, Velshi defined and differentiated the terms misinformation and disinformation.

He explained the latter term is the deliberate spread of false information, whereas the former happens when people “misspeak” or “misunderstand” the intended news.

In the era of personal technology, where news can be readily accessed through personal mobile devices, Velshi said it’s easy for the public to consume distorted information. It’s also easy for people to lie, he said.

“I remember when social media was first invented, I thought to myself, no one will ever be able to lie again,” he said. “Everybody will check it, and within moments, [you’ll] be embarrassed.”

Velshi said, however, that once information receives an “amplification channel,” misinformation can easily be taken as factual.

Using the Coronavirus outbreak as an example, he said there’s no magic cure for the virus, but if one goes to the wrong source, a person could receive “outrageous instructions” on fighting the virus.

This is a result of a post-fact world, Velshi explained. “Fake stories have better headlines.”

“The algorithms are better, they’ll stick them into your feed in a way that is more lucrative to the social media companies, so the fake news spreads faster than the real ones,” he said.

In order to alleviate impacts of false and misleading news, Velshi suggested regulating the spread of misinformation and disinformation. He also said it’s important to catch it when it arises.

“I correct myself a lot on TV, just so that my viewers know that mistakes happen and we’re catching them and correcting them,” he said. “I need my viewer to understand [that] when we talk, we make mistakes. If you don’t correct yourself, that becomes its own story.”

He said it’s also important for readers to get information from a variety of credible news outlets.

“If you happen to be a liberal, find a conservative outlet that you can trust. If you’re a conservative, find a liberal outlet that you can trust,” he said. “The point is to understand what’s out there so you can try and relate.”

As a concluding statement, Velshi said news has always been biased, but people should know how to distinguish biases.

“Kids are being taught how to understand the consumption of information,” he said. “I think that has become important, and maybe that should be the kind of thing that Queen’s thinks about for the community.”

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