Dr. Herman Wasserman’s lecture on disinformation

Dr. Hermann Wasserman delivered a well-researched, informative and engaging lecture on the growing rates of disinformation in the Global South.

Wasserman is a visiting scholar at the University of Houston, specializing in media research at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

He touched on a variety of conversation topics, including but not limited to, how the field is a growing range of study, the difference between misinformation and disinformation and how this “infodemic” has existed in the Global South since long before the rise in political polarization and the COVID-19 pandemic.

A good chunk of his research focuses on communications and media in what’s known as the “Global South,” which scholars define as countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceanic regions.

He began his lecture by first defining the difference between disinformation, and misinformation. Misinformation is often misleading without the intent of being misleading, while disinformation is misleading since the information was conceived with little fact checking or basis around evidence.

In his lecture, Wasserman touched on how the study of “disinformation” is a growing subfield of communications. This comes in response to growing literature on how people communicate, as well as new avenues for communication like WhatsApp, Facebook and other applications that can create new problems around disinformation. Another reason this is a growing field is because of the rise in “fake news,” which Wasserman said grew at an “exponential rate” during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

More specifically in the Global South though, since media is concentrated and is often controlled/owned by government entities, disinformation is a larger problem in these areas. Since newsrooms are understaffed, overworked and underpaid in places like Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria, there’s a growing distrust of media entities in these countries.

Countries like these in the Global South have been seeing disinformation since well before the social media age, Wasserman says. That came as a direct result of another health related epidemic the Global South saw only a few decades ago — the HIV/AIDs epidemic.

Oftentimes disinformation comes from sources of power, like political leaders, who people put blind faith in, Wasserman claims, which can trickle down into a bigger problem, as we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, Wasserman’s lecture was incredibly interesting. I found his work to be exciting and relevant to our contemporary political and social environment, and I look forward to reading his material on disinformation as he releases it.

Take a look at the Wakelet I created for this lecture: https://wke.lt/w/s/cgJEan

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Journalism & Political Science student @ University of Houston

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Haya Panjwani

Haya Panjwani

Journalism & Political Science student @ University of Houston

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