LIYSF Debate evening : The Authority of Online Information
06 Apr, 2020 by Minushika Punchihewa

The Authority of Online Information

The theme for the 2019 LIYSF debate evening was ‘The Authority of Online Information.’ 

Dr Jason Nurse, Assistant Professor in Cyber Security at the University of Kent and a Visiting Academic at the University of Oxford, introduced participants to the topic of cyber security and led the debate on the role of science and technology in regulating online content. 

Dr. Jason Nurse speaking about The Authority of Online Information

Dr Jason Nurse addressing the LIYSF participants at the Ondaatje Theatre

The session began with Dr Nurse exploring the benefits of the interweb and how it provides a platform for “communicating, conducting business, engaging with the government and entertaining,” all before diving into the more contentious issue of authority surrounding online information. 

This discussion was prefaced with the idea that in our current society, “data is the new oil.” Dr Nurse explained how data can be a powerful asset, however, it can equally be used to inflict harm. The abundance of online information makes it more challenging to identify trustworthy sources, giving way to misinformation and more recently with the advancements in Artificial Intelligence technology, a programme called deepfake

LIYSF student from Australia sharing her thoughts

LIYSF student Catlin Risstrom from Australia sharing her thoughts on the debate topic

Dr Nurse posed several questions to the participants throughout the evening. 

  • Whose responsibility is it for verifying and ensuring the accuracy of online information? 
  • Is there conflict regarding monitoring what is posted and taking it down that may infringe on people’s freedom of speech?
  • The government is calling for online companies to take responsibility to tackle the issue of misinformation… what can science and technology do to help us with the problem?
  • Have you heard of deep fakes, and how would you look to solve this new problem? 

Dr Nurse’s discussion brought to the forefront many conversations around privacy, free speech and governmental regulation and how these issues seem to collide at an intersection with no traffic lights. It was an opportunity for participants to try navigating this complex issue while being encouraged to remain open-minded to the diversity of voices, experiences and knowledge within the theatre. 

Throughout the evening, participants were challenged to think critically on the topic of cyber security, with 23 participants from 13 countries contributing to this passionate debate. 

Dr Jason Nurse addressing the LIYSF participants

In the end, Dr Nurse reminded students that “it can’t all be down to science and technology” to resolve such issues.  

In the true essence of the LIYSF theme, ‘Science At The Interface,’ he stated how important it is that scientists “use an interdisciplinary approach to address problems.” This requires taking into consideration the wider political, social and environmental factors, especially since science alone cannot address problems that are rooted within human behaviour and are a reflection of societal culture.

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