Hub Dialogue

Why we need to develop ‘mental immunity’: Dr. Seema Yasmin on searching for the truth in today’s information ecosystem

At Washington, DC Facebook headquarters, activists lay body bags and call for Facebook to stop disinformation that leads to Covid deaths on Wednesday, July. 28, 2021 in Washington. Eric Kayne/AP Images.

This episode of Hub Dialogues features host Sean Speer in conversation with Dr. Seema Yasmin, an award-winning author, journalist, physician, and professor at Stanford University, about her new book, What the Fact?: Finding the Truth in all the Noise.

You can listen to this episode of Hub Dialogues on Acast, Amazon, Apple, Google, Spotify, or YouTube. A transcript of the episode is available below.

SEAN SPEER: Welcome to Hub Dialogues. I’m your host, Sean Speer, editor-at-large at The Hub. I’m honoured to be joined today by Dr. Seema Yasmin, who’s an award-winning author, journalist, physician, and professor at Stanford University. She’s also the author of the new book, What the Fact? Finding the Truth in All the Noise, which seeks to make sense of today’s highly-permissive media landscape and marketplace of ideas for a younger generation of readers. I’m grateful to talk to her about the book, including the importance of media literacy and navigating the complexities of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation. Seema, thanks for joining us at Hub Dialogues, and congratulations on the book.

SEEMA YASMIN: Thanks so much, Sean. I’m excited to chat with you, so thank you for inviting me.

SEAN SPEER: You were appointed the Dalla Lana Global Journalism Fellow at the University of Toronto in 2013. What in your view are the biggest changes to the media landscape and marketplace of ideas in a decade or so since then?

SEEMA YASMIN: Oh, my God, I can’t believe it was that long ago. I’ll tell you one of the things that struck me when I started that very unique journalism program at U of T. At that time, I had just come out of a two-year position at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I’d served as an officer in the Epidemic Intelligence Service. I had been the consumer of news, right? I was that person who read The Guardian, who listened to BBC World Service.

I had understood during my tenure as a federal government disease detective that I needed to understand how to tell a story, how to frame a narrative, how to effectively counter health and science misinformation and disinformation if I was going to be successful in any way as a public health doctor. I leave the CDC, except that I—it was 2013. I had been there for two years. I was so frustrated that we had this singular focus on the spread of pathogens, but not on the concurrent spread of misinformation and disinformation about pathogens.

That contagious nature of information was the reason the epidemics were happening, the reason that measles was resurging. The reason that children in America were dying of whooping cough wasn’t that science was lacking. We had amazing vaccines. The problem was that there was this contagion of bad information. That information was much more compelling, much more memorable, than anything that public health was putting out, and perhaps even more so than what was happening in journalism.

I moved to Toronto in 2013. I start this fellowship. Right off the bat, the director of the program, Rob Steiner, says to us, “You may not know this because you haven’t been in the journalism world, but I have. I’ve been at Wall Street Journal and I’ve been a Pulitzer Prize finalist. I know this industry, but everything is changing and this is not your traditional journalism program and I am going to set you up for success as a freelancer.”

I loved that idea because he was turning us into entrepreneurs and people who understood the business of news as opposed to just people who could churn out really, really, really good reporting. I thought to myself, this is such a weird career move. People are looking at the news sideways like, ‘You just did this really prestigious thing at CDC that usually people do because it establishes them for the rest of their lives as having a successful career in public health.”

I stepped away from that conveyor belt to go journalism school. A lot of people didn’t get it, but it was also weird to me because I was like, “I can’t believe I’m going back to school.” I did not know how I was going to use that journalism training, except I just understood the skills were necessary. Here’s the thing. As much as Rob Steiner was getting us ready to be successful freelancers, I got snapped up by The Dallas Morning News, a newspaper in Texas, a legacy paper that’s been around for over 100 years.

I had never even been to Texas. Straight out of the program, I was immersed in a very respected, very long-standing daily newspaper in Dallas that used to have bureaus in Moscow and Tokyo and all around the world. Immediately, the reception I got was like, “We’re so glad you’re here.” I’m like, “Why are you here? This profession feels like it’s dying.” The amazing journalists in the newsroom back in 2014 in Dallas were wounded.

They were practically limping around the newsroom because they’d survived layoffs and they’d seen their friends lose their careers. What I saw though, to more directly answer your question, was a lot of innovation at The Dallas Morning News, which I think was symbolic of other things happening in the industry. For example, daily news and the business of that had changed so much because of online advertising.

The Dallas Morning News knew that it wanted to put out a robust product, but it scaled back all of its international stuff and was like, “We hired you to write about public health. Everything you write will have a focus on Texas.” That really challenged me but excited me because everything is a local story. The other thing I saw was that they generated revenue through events, through the Dallas Ideas Festival, and through other events like that.

There was a lot of innovation going on. Of course, since then, it’s interesting you asked this question because it’s now 2022. For the last few years, what I have been studying is the growth of news deserts across America, the decimation of local news like where I cut my teeth, and I study the impact of information deserts on us. How does it change the way that we make decisions about getting vaccinated or not?

If you live in a news desert as my research group defines it, how does that impact your life expectancy, for example? All of that is to say that journalism is still in churn. The dedication page in What the Fact? if you noticed it is to my nephew, Mohammed Aman, who wants to be a journalist who’s young. He’s like 19 and keeps being told by people, “Why are you doing a journalism degree?” To sum up the answer, everything is in flux.

It feels broken. It’s easy to say, “Local news is the immune system of a democracy.” It is. It’s easy to say, “Local news is dying. Therefore, please subscribe to your local paper.” As I outline in a whole chapter in What the Fact? there’s a lot that’s wrong with the news. We need innovation and we need the Mohammed Amans of the world to come in and perhaps raze some of it to the ground and build it back up.

SEAN SPEER: We’ll come to some of that forward-thinking in the book. Before we get there, I want to take up one issue that I thought was really informative and insightful, and that is the observation you make that so-called “fake news” is hardly new. We’ve lived with the widespread dissemination of false information for centuries. The question for you is, how has it changed in qualitative and quantitative terms? Are we living through something fundamentally different or is this just the modern expression of an age-old problem?

SEEMA YASMIN: It’s easy to say, “Oh, the internet,” and it’s easy to say, “Oh, social media.” Everything is so dire. The reason why I write about history even in a book that’s aimed at younger readers, although it’s for everyone, the reason I do that is because it is easy to feel hopeless when people talk about “fake news.” We can talk about that term too. I heard something really smart. I wish I knew who it was. You turn on your car and NPR comes on and you catch the end of an interview. This very wise person being interviewed on NPR said about climate change, that climate change hopelessness is the new denial. I was like, “Yes, that actually makes sense. You might be coming from a slightly different place to someone who’s an outright denialist, but the effect is the same.”

If you feel like climate change or the viral spread of false information is this intractable problem that just cannot be solved and it’s so overwhelming, you tap out of being part of the solution. The reason that I wrote about this historical perspective was to say, “Hey, I know things feel dire right now, but one keep reading the book because it’s going to get so optimistic and so evidence-based and so solutions-oriented as to how we actually fix this. But yeah, this ain’t nothing new.”

As long as humans have been around, there’s been taradiddlers—I can’t remember the other words, like all these weird, ancient words from the English language that I put into the book to say, “You know, the quacks and the fake news spreaders of the 13th century? There were names for them back then too.”

Then even once we had very formal newspapers, we had yellow journalism and we had propaganda. Hey, did you know that the whole history of newspapers in the U.S. really was born out of being a mouthpiece of future presidents and political parties? Things are different now, but they’re not completely different. They’re not brand new. We just have different technologies, I think. We have, perhaps, the means for false information to spread perhaps quicker.

Although I don’t know, you look back to how well-organized information sharing was during the Roman Empire. It was vast. Maybe it took a little bit longer, but perhaps you had people’s ears more. Perhaps you had fewer sources of information. Therefore, propaganda could be that much more powerful. The dynamics have changed, but this problem in itself is not new. That’s why I don’t want us to feel like it’s hopeless. We can get a handle on this.

SEAN SPEER: That’s a great answer, Seema. I noted that you emphasize words and language. If it’s okay, I want to ask a couple of nomenclature questions. In the book, you use the uppercase for bias, groupthink, and disinformation. Two questions. First, what does your use of the uppercase signify about these phenomena? Second, how are they interrelated?

SEEMA YASMIN: Oh, I love that you said that because I literally just was listening to BBC Radio 4. They had an author talking about his non-use of capitalization in his novel and the only thing that he capitalized was I. He said it was to do with fighting back against the British Empire and colonization. Language is really powerful and these choices are deliberate. When it came to things like groupthink and bias and disinformation, I capitalize them, especially when writing for a younger audience.

Honestly, for all of us, YA literature is not dumbed down at all. It’s just written to be super entertaining and accessible and engaging. I was thinking about some of these more abstract concepts like the viral spread of misinformation and disinformation. I’m using a lot of metaphors and analogies in the book. I’m using that outbreak kind of metaphor, lots of medical metaphors.

I’m also thinking about some of these entities as characters perhaps. I think that’s why I capitalize them. Even me, it helps me get my head around things when I can perhaps capitalize a concept and turn it into a character within a narrative. I think perhaps with a younger reader, that can be a bit more engaging than it just being this abstract, invisible spread of information across the airwaves.

SEAN SPEER: Similarly, you distinguish between misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation. What are their differences?

SEEMA YASMIN: Yes, so I’ll go through the differences. Just to say before that, the reason I do that is because otherwise, this term “fake news” gets lobbed around a lot to the point that I think some of us are tired of it. It just gets used as like, “Oh, someone said something a bit iffy like fake news. Let’s just say that to shut them up.” Also, fake news is really, really vague. Within that bucket are 10, 20, 50 different kinds of false information or sometimes maybe not so false.

Then, also, it gets lobbed like a word grenade by usually people in power who don’t want people like journalists holding them to account. The reason I explained in the book like, “Hey, let’s be up on the language. Let’s be able to call this thing misinformation and know that it’s different from disinformation,” is because it’s empowering. It’s specific. As a physician myself, I think you can’t really help someone or you can’t really progress in someone’s treatment plan until you’ve given them a diagnosis.

I remember one time saying to my mother when I was in med school, “Oh, wouldn’t it be horrible to have a disease or a syndrome named after you?” There are so many eponymous diseases in medicine that it’s so weird. My mom was like, “Not really,” because to many people, when they get a diagnosis, it’s so liberating to have language that describes what it is they’re going through.

I was like, “Oh, I was young. I hadn’t thought of it that way.” I think that’s why it is empowering to say, “You’ve just hit me with 10 different things that are false, but I can call them what they are.” I know the difference between satire and parody and malinformation and disinformation. It’s why I explain that misinformation is false information that’s spread usually without someone knowing that what they’re saying is not fact-based and then not sharing it with any bad intention.

An example might be that at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, a friend says to you, “Hey, there’s this virus spreading. I heard that if, every day, you gargle with salt water, you won’t get this new coronavirus.” Your friend didn’t know any better and, hopefully, they really are your friend. They’re not trying to make you susceptible to or feel like you’re immune to COVID. That’s misinformation.

It’s different from disinformation where you might see a tweet that is spread by someone connected to a foreign government perhaps that wants to disrupt your nation, saying that COVID is a hoax and it’s a hoax invented by your government. It’s trying to dupe you. We saw a lot of disinformation during the Ebola epidemic of 2014 to 2016. We saw Russian-backed groups hack news organizations in the U.S. and declare disinformation such as an Ebola outbreak in Atlanta.

That, for example, can stoke really bad chaos. It can harm. It can overwhelm urgent cares and ERs and cause people to panic and be really unhelpful and dangerous to those who actually are having a heart attack actually need to get into the ER. There’s a distinction. I think it’s important because it speaks to power. I think power is at the heart of this. What are people trying to say to us? How are they trying to control us and the information that we’re seeing? What’s the agenda behind it?

SEAN SPEER: You also take on directly what you describe as “the myth of objectivity.” It reminds me of a recent episode we did with journalist Chris Stirewalt, who instead talked of the goal of “aspirational fairness.” As media consumers, how should we think about objectivity and what should journalists or commentators in the public square be aspiring to?

SEEMA YASMIN: I like the aspirational fairness because I think it speaks honestly to this idea that it’s a hard goal, but it’s doable. I think more about radical transparency. For example, as opposed to me being the faceless, nameless in the case of The Economist, faceless, nameless author of disinformation, perhaps it’s more helpful for you to see my name, to see an avatar, see my face, to know that I’m brown, that I’m Muslim, that I present as a woman, that I have this accent, that I grew up in a particular place.

Perhaps that helps you see that I receive the world through a particular lens. That informs my reporting because it even informs what I consider to be newsworthy. I don’t think we’ve been honest about those conversations. Sometimes when I’ve had these discussions with veteran journalists who are like the journalists of the ’70s or the ’80s in America, there’s this idea that it was really good back then and not now.

I’m like, “Was it really good back then when you were a news anchor and everyone looked like you and was like a straight, white, able-bodied man? That’s better than now?” I think the problem is now that we’re still pushing this concept of the view from nowhere, this myth of neutrality and objectivity instead of striving for radical fairness. I go through so many examples in that chapter in What the Fact? about a Black journalist being told, “She can’t cover the Black Lives Matter movement or the George Floyd protest.”

Are we having those same conversations with white journalists about what they supposedly can or cannot cover? And just having cut my teeth for three years in a local newsroom and seeing how those editorial decisions getting made, and not to necessarily just throw The Dallas Morning News under the bus because it happens everywhere, although I’m particularly annoyed with the editorial board at the moment because they just endorsed Greg Abbott for a third term, which just seems absolutely irresponsible and horrific.

There were legit times when I was one of only two non-white people in a morning news meeting and somebody white would say, “Oh, we need the Black perspective on such and such a story. Can somebody go to South Dallas,” as if that’s where all the Black people lived in one bubble. Literally, somebody would say, “Oh, can someone go to a barber shop,” as if Black people might not also be in the ER or in the law office. This crap still happens.

The people that get to make decisions about what’s on the front page and what’s left on the cutting-room floor, they’re not understanding the lived realities of the people they’re supposed to be reporting on. I remember after that horrific shooting, the mass shooting in downtown Dallas in 2016, which we covered, weeks after that there were Blue Lives Matter placards in lots of gardens in my neighbourhood. I would drive past them on my way into work. I said to an editor who was responsible for the race coverage, I said something like, “Oh, it’s sinister having to see all of those Blue Lives Matter signs.”

He was like, “Well, why would police support be sinister to you?” He did not get it. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, you are responsible for editing and making news judgments about reporting on race in Dallas, and you don’t understand why, for a brown person, for a Muslim person, for an immigrant, that kind of very vocal and visible support for police would be scary?” I go through the details in the chapter as well about how, back in the day, we’ve had editorials in The LA Times that endorse the internment of Japanese Americans that fully backed the status quo, which was extremely racist.

We’ve had the paper in Kansas recently and Nat Geo apologized for their erasure or misrepresentation of people of colour. I strive for that to be done. I strive for the dirty laundry to be washed. I strive for there to be atonement. I strive for there to be equity in newsrooms. It’s not just about quotas and making people feel better, but actually about having representation in the newsroom that really reflects the communities that local news is supposed to serve.

SEAN SPEER: I want to follow up on that answer and ask about the role of gatekeepers. Some might argue that the old media landscape or marketplace of ideas was less prone to the spread of false information, but it was also less democratized and closed off to different voices and perspectives. How should we think about the trade-off between a more democratized public square and the supply of false ideas, or is it wrong in your view to think about it as a matter of trade-off?

SEEMA YASMIN: I thought about this a lot in the context of a book for young people that especially is focused on digital literacy and thinking about social media and just personally being immersed in social media even more than I normally am. My brain is definitely. The dopamine surges are real. I’m definitely hooked to those pings and likes and notifications, but I was immersed in TikTok way more than I would’ve been if I’d not been writing this book.

At some points, you just want to throw your phone across the room, especially when you see what’s been targeted at young people. It would’ve been easy and tempting to say it’s just so bad, for example, thinking about the spread of false information on social media, which, on the one hand, you can argue, has democratized information sharing and has made everyone a publisher, but that would’ve been unfair.

One, because there’s such a focus on the big platforms, the Metas, the YouTubes, the TikToks, when there are other better, more equitable, less revenue-focused, less profit-driven platforms out there. Also, to your point, because I want young people to know, there’s incredible organizing and activism and information sharing that’s happening on social media that speaks directly to what you’re saying in terms of speaking out against authoritarian governments who have state-controlled media outlets, where it’s really hard to get information from the source and from the streets.

What you see is very much propaganda. In Russia and Iran, but even here, how many times do we see corrections or voices on Twitter or on Instagram or on TikTok saying, “Hey, you may have seen this on mainstream news, but here’s what’s really happening”? Then we’ve seen incredible organizations like Blavity emerge out of the tragedy of the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, and Blavity, this Black-owned, Black-led, Black-focused news organization saying, “Look, we saw all this coverage on CNN and other outlets about what was happening in Ferguson and we didn’t see ourselves represented.” To answer your question, yes, no, everything, I don’t know. All of those things are happening.

We just have to have these really frank discussions with young people that within this information ecosystem in which all of these things are happening, there is the democratization of publishing. There is still the florid misrepresentation of people of colour or queer people or disabled people, the erasure of these people from the news. How are you going to be really savvy about navigating your journey through this information ecosystem? It doesn’t have to be daunting. It can actually be really fun and really empowering. What the Fact? was written to be your guidebook, your map through that fascinating information ecosystem.

SEAN SPEER: I should just say in parentheses for listeners, the book outlines a strategy for young people in particular, but all media consumers in general, to be able to do precisely what Seema has just outlined.

I want to stay on the topic though of the tensions and trade-offs between trying to distinguish good news from bad news. Recent reporting by ProPublica seems to point to reasonably compelling evidence that the novel coronavirus may have indeed started in a Wuhan laboratory. Twenty months ago or so that idea would’ve probably been characterized as some combination of misinformation, disinformation, or even malinformation. I guess my question is, how can we enable a process of continuous learning and information gathering as, say, set out in the scientific method without leaving the door open to any and all crazy ideas?

SEEMA YASMIN: I think the problem has been, especially in the context of COVID, that during an acute crisis, we’ve been trying to get people up to speed on the scientific process, for example, on the journalistic process, on how fact-checking works. We’ve seen that backfire or we’ve seen how that is really difficult during a crisis and how you have to do the scientific literacy building, the media literacy, the critical thinking, all of that beforehand. Otherwise, it all feeds into the crisis.

I think you’re right early on. That theory would’ve been shot down, except it probably would’ve been shot down with the caveat that, based on what we know right now, it seems unlikely. I had conversations with scientists at that time. One of the things we talked about was looking at the genome of the coronavirus and looking at its particular shape, just its characteristic, that if somebody was trying to perhaps create a virus for biowarfare, it probably wouldn’t necessarily look like this.

Perhaps, the reporting is all speaking to this being malicious, for example, or intentional that you make those decisions or you provide that analysis based on the best available evidence at that time. What it looks like then is if someone changes their mind, for example, Dr. Fauci early in the pandemic saying, “You don’t need to wear a mask,” a couple of weeks later saying, “We want everyone to wear a cloth mask.”

It looks to many, who are perhaps not the most scientifically literate like, “That man doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s backtracking what’s happening,” and yet we haven’t taught people that a good scientist will change their mind based on the best available evidence that science isn’t a textbook. Science is not a pile of static facts. Science is a process of asking a question. It’s a process of information discovery.

If you haven’t got someone up to speed on that, then it just looks like you’re wishy-washy and prevaricating perhaps. I think the solution to a lot of these, the solution to the polarization is what’s outlined in the book, which is one understanding how news is made, understanding how fact-checking is done, understanding the scientific process, but also developing this internal mental immunity to becoming polarized and to falling for false information.

What that looks like, this mental immunity, we’re calling it cognitive immunity or resilience to falsehoods and polarization, it looks like saying, “Okay, you’ve just told me a thing. You’ve told me that you think, based on what’s out there, that this virus likely did not emerge from a lab accident or from some intentional creation of a novel virus.” Okay, you’re giving me this evidence to back up what you’re saying. I’m not going to say, “Yes, I believe. You know I believe you. Let’s do away with this idea that belief is binary.”

What you might want to do is say, “I’m going to go with perhaps leaning towards agreeing with you. I’m going to give this belief a level of strength, a level of credence. It’s going to be maybe six or seven.” What that does when you treat belief like a dimmer switch as opposed to an on-off switch is it leaves you mentally much more open to taking in more information and reassessing as opposed to, “Yes, I just believe that it was fake. This is fake news. This virus came out of a lab. The Chinese haters and the American government’s just trying to hide things.”

As opposed to that, you’re saying, “I’m going to perhaps lean towards believing that, but I’m going to give that belief a level of strength of five or six or seven perhaps, whichever way you want to go.” Then you gather new intel and you’re willing to shift. That’s actually how you develop mental antibodies as we’re calling them now in this field of cognitive immunity.

SEAN SPEER: That’s a brilliant answer. Let me just ask a follow-up question. Do you think it’s possible in our current social and political context for voices of authority, whether it’s politicians or scientists or other experts, to be able to communicate along those lines, or do you think that the incentives or the pressures to speak much more declaratively are simply too powerful?

SEEMA YASMIN: When I first moved to America in around 2011 to work as a disease detective in the government, the CDC stationed me in Phoenix, Arizona. I got to know about the goings-on of Sheriff Joe Arpaio very well because of his horrific tent city in which, mostly men of colour were incarcerated, made to wear pink boxer shorts, and all this weird, cruel stuff. The reason I got to know it, there were often outbreaks inside this horrific incarceration facility.

One day, I got invited by a journalist friend to go watch a screening of a documentary about him. The journalist friend’s friend had made this documentary. She tracked Sheriff Joe Arpaio for years and years. What I learned in watching this documentary is the man that I had gotten to know. That’s perhaps not who he really was and it’s perhaps not who he started out as, but what Sheriff Joe learned is that he became a public figure. He became a celebrity and he became a household name, just Sheriff Joe.

You knew who he was, Maricopa County sheriff, by being more and more and more polarized or polarizing by having these extreme beliefs and being incredibly cruel. The reason I think of that when you ask that question is I think that many in power have realized that in the context of global polarization and nationalization, what feels often, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, is a swing towards the Right and sometimes the extreme Right, that being that polarizing figure means big bucks or means reelection or means more airtime.

That’s one of the challenges that we are up against, especially in the face of platforms, which are cowardly and won’t deplatform some of these individuals. We know about the Disinformation Dozen, the 12 people, public figures who are responsible for more than 60 percent of the spread of COVID lies on social media. Organizations like the Center for Countering Digital Hate, CCDH, have collected tons of data over the course of the pandemic to show what considerable harm these 12 individuals can do.

They are empowered by the platforms and the platforms continue to resist this evidence and not to do anything about them. That’s the quandary we’re in right now. That’s why the solution to me feels like arming young people with a book like What the Fact? and saying, “You be the savvy one. You be the change-maker in the future, but at least right now, you be the person with whom the viral spread of false information stops.”

SEAN SPEER: I’m going to wrap up our conversation with a question about the relative role of business, government, and individuals to address these issues. Before I do, I want to ask you a penultimate question. You call addressing the challenge of false information the “problem of our time.” Why is it so important in your view?

SEEMA YASMIN: Because everything hinges on that. Sometimes when I stay, I do think, “Oh, but maybe it’s Islamophobia. Maybe it’s white supremacy. Maybe it’s climate change,” except how we learn about those issues, how we tackle those issues, it always hinges on information. It always hinges on our engagement with social media platforms and with the media.

Unless we understand how bad actors overseas or corrupt governments, wherever they might be, foreign lands or right here, how they can manipulate us, how they can make a diagnosis of what’s already broken in our society and deepen those chasms by engineering messages that polarize us even more, we’re just never going to get a handle on anything. Information warfare forever has been used to disrupt and dissolve democracy. We’re watching it happen right now. Unless we get a handle on that for the next generation especially, then good luck tackling white supremacy, climate change, or any of that stuff.

SEAN SPEER: As I said, Seema, that begs the question: what’s the relative role of business, government, and individuals to combat the spread of false information?

SEEMA YASMIN: The relative part is difficult because then so much of the owner gets put on the individual. You be the one that pushes back against government. You be the one that pushes back against social media. However, that might be disengaging or complaining or reporting, or being an activist and organizing. It really is going to be the interplay of all of those three pillars as I think of it.

Government needs to step up. We need media literacy in schools, for example. In writing What the Fact? I learned that most states in the U.S. don’t mandate that kids learn anything about media literacy. I was amazed that teachers have been so excited about using What the Fact? to teach this. We’ve created a teaching guide with the Pulitzer Center that has lesson plans and chapter guides and stuff like that. There’s the government role. As I mentioned, social media not doing enough.

Then there’s the individual responsibility and the individual power we have as people, but people on our own, but then also as communities and as organizers to push back against the social media platforms that profit off this disruption that really make money by hooking us and hooking our dopamine reward systems in our brain. Then we also need to push back, against government too, to make sure that our kids are empowered and savvy consumers of information.

SEAN SPEER: This has been a highly-informative conversation as is the book, What the Fact? Finding the Truth in All the Noise. Dr. Seema Yasmin, thank you for joining us at Hub Dialogues.

SEEMA YASMIN: Thank you, Sean.

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