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Tech Shock: Frank Kelly on misinformation

In this week’s episode of the Tech Shock podcast, Vicki and Geraldine speak to Frank Kelly, Professor of the Mathematics of Systems at Cambridge University, about scientific misinformation. 

Kelly is sceptical of censorship for online misinformation, seeing it as counterproductive.

“Misinformation [is] inevitable in any kind of free, open and pluralistic society,” he says. “It’s not at all obvious that censorship is helpful - because what causes people not to take up vaccinations, for example, is a loss of trust in public health messages.” 

Kelly highlights a number of alternatives: changing engagement-driven algorithms, promoting data literacy, and encouraging tech platforms to work alongside fact-checkers. 

Beyond that, Kelly argues that we should trust in science and open conversation. Ultimately, “the best way to maintain trust is to be trustworthy.”

An authoritative voice is also important, “then, when a new problem arises, misinformation isn’t allowed to propagate unchallenged.” Acknowledged authorities with scientific credibility should be able to explain  “what we know, what we don’t know, and the uncertainties.” 

Listen to Series 3, Episode 6 to hear the full podcast.   

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