The key to a full and sustainable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is a successful mass vaccination program with the majority of citizens accepting the offer of the vaccine. And yet, while this fact has long been clear to policy makers, a significant percentage of citizens continue to mistrust their governments enough to reject the vaccine – in large part fueled by anti-vax disinformation easily found online – thereby posing a significant threat to the successful outcome of the program.
This Concordia Live explored the political and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. and UK and examined the role of government in confronting the major threats to recovery, not least the battle to contain the anti-vax movement. Our expert panel for this session included two former Cabinet Members from the U.S. and UK.
Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, and Former UK Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, shared their personal perspectives on the handling of the crisis, and how the governments of the U.S. and UK can secure a full economic recovery for their people. Matthew Swift, Founder of Concordia, and Dave King, CEO of Digitalis, the specialist digital advisory firm and a Global Patron Member of Concordia, also joined the panel.
So much of America’s disinformation tsunami of today can be traced back to the revocation of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine in 1987. Is there any value in attempting to resurrect it to help battle disinformation?
This is worth the inquiry not just for reasons of anti-vaccination but also for public safety. Secretary Johnson spoke to the environment we live in today and how disinformation can lead to violence, he specifically highlighted the January 6th insurrection.
With unlimited means and if a western government treated its message in the same way a private individual might approach the protection of their reputation, how could misinformation be challenged or its visibility reduced in public spaces, before it filters down into more informal spaces – once there and adopted by people we personally know and trust, it seems to become a matter of changing people’s minds and feelings, which is a very tall order.
Dave King explained that there are technologies that can rebalance what people see on the platforms. There is also an increasing and rapid removal of disinformation. To get better at this, government policy and big tech support is needed.
Who is the truth umpire?