Breaking the News: How Bots, Trolls and Other Media Manipulators Threaten Our Politics

Date & Time

Monday May 14, 2018
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.


University of Ottawa Desmarais Building Room 1160
55 Laurier Ave. DMS Building, Room 1160

Show Map

Activists, politicians and partisans compete intensely for attention and influence online. Today, malevolent actors seem to have the upper hand. They push disinformation and hate using fake accounts, bots and algorithms designed to keep us scrolling through the latest outrage. News organizations and social media platforms struggle to deal with these media manipulators, particularly after major tragedies or during heated political campaigns like the current one in Ontario.


This panel dissected the techniques used by foreign and domestic media manipulators, and suggested what can be done to fight them:

  • Elizabeth Dubois of the University of Ottawa will share her findings on bot use in Canada and during the lead up to the Ontario election.
  • Brittan Heller will describe how the Anti-Defamation League is tackling online hate.
  • Dave Salvo of the Alliance for Securing Democracy will present recent findings on digital information campaigns by Russia and other governments
  • Mike Ananny of the University of Southern California will explain how social media platforms and news organizations can respond to these challenges. 

The panel discussion was moderated by Chris Tenove, University of British Columbia.

This event was hosted by the Public Policy Forum and University of British Columbia, and supported by the Center for the Study of Democratic Citizenship, Concordia University, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.


Agenda May 14

5:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.


6:00 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.

Opening Remarks 

6:15 p.m. - 7:20 p.m.

Panel and Q&A Discussion

7:20 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Conclusion & Closing Remarks

Mike Ananny

Mike Ananny is an Associate Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California. He is the author most recently of Networked Press Freedom: Creating Infrastructures for a Public Right to Hear (The MIT Press), and the report The Partnership Press: Lessons for Platform-Publisher Collaborations as Facebook and News Outlets Team to Fight Misinformation (Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University.)

Elizabeth Dubois

Elizabeth Dubois is an Assistant Professor of Communications at the University of Ottawa. She examines how digital media are used for political purposes and how people develop political opinions. Her recent work has focused on political bots and on echo chambers, including her recently published article “The Echo Chamber is Overstated” (Journal of Information, Communication & Society). She is a Fellow with the Public Policy Forum and Principal Investigator and Co-Chair of the Connected Canada Conference. Find her on Twitter @lizdubois or at

Brittan Heller

Brittan Heller is the Director of Technology and Society at the Anti-Defamation League. She is the founder of the ADL’s Center for Technology and Society, which pursues a initiatives such as the Online Hate Index to combat hate and stigma on the internet.

David Salvo

David Salvo is a resident fellow with the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a project of the German Marshall Fund for the United States, where he focuses on Russian information operations in the US and Baltic region. He was previously a Foreign Service Officer at the US State Department.

Chris Tenove

Chris Tenove, the moderator, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia. He researches digital media, democracy and international human rights, and recently published Digital Threats to Democratic Elections: How Foreign Actors Use Digital Techniques to Undermine Democracy (Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions, UBC).

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