Dance – Linguistics and disinformation: motivations and solutions for sharing fake news

FORGE is delighted to announce a talk by our upcoming internal speaker: William Dance (Linguistics & English Language). Details of his talk are below:

Linguistics and disinformation: motivations and solutions for sharing fake news

Fake news, intentionally factually incorrect news that is published to deceive and misinform its reader, has become a very prominent issue in the public arena in recent years. It has been estimated that factually un-true stories were shared more than 30-million times during the 2016 U.S. presidential election (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017) and already in 2019, the British government has published a white paper to tackle the spread of disinformation. However, at its core fake news is a contentious issue: should we even use the term ‘fake news’?; is fake news as damaging as people claim it to be?; can anything be done to stop it?

Fake news is a modern name for a very old phenomenon and it has been an issue for centuries, shown by Charles II’s 17th century proclamation “to restrain the spreading of false news, and licentious talking of matters of state and government” (Early English Books Online, 2017). Organisations such as the Department for Agitation and Propaganda in Soviet Russia and the Ministry of Popular Culture in Italy all created fake news under different names during the 20th century and under Hitler’s rule of Germany parts of the press were referred to as the Lügenpresse (literally: lying press). However, it is only in the last five years the term ‘fake news’ has entered our daily lives.

This talk will be a complete beginner’s guide to researching fake news. It will give a history of fake news that will discuss how old the phenomenon is, provide definitions of fake news and will explain why fake news exists. Then, recent seminal works exploring fake news will be discussed as well as the various government reports that are currently being published across the world to tackle fake news. I’ll then go on to give a work-in-progress report of my current research into fake news and give some examples of cursory data analysis that looks at social media users’ motivations and rationales for disseminating fake news online.

Allcott, H. & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31(2), 211-236.

Donath, J. (1999). Identity and deception in the virtual community. In Communities in Cyberspace. London: Routledge. (pp. 343-359).

Guess, A., Nyhan, B., & Reifler, J. (2018). Selective exposure to misinformation: Evidence from the consumption of fake news during the 2016 US presidential campaign. European Research Council, 9.

Hardaker, C. (2013). “Uh…..not to be nitpicky,,,,,but…the past tense of drag is dragged, not drug.”: an overview of trolling strategies. Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict, 1 (1). pp. 57-86.

Rayson, P. (2008). From key words to key semantic domains. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 13(4), 519-549.

1100-1200, Wed 06th Mar, County South B89

All are welcome to attend.

Wright – “You need to speak in English, you’re in f***ing England”: how the British press fan the flames of linguistic discrimination

The FORGE is delighted to announce our second external guest speaker: Dr David Wright (NTU). Details of his talk are below:

“You need to speak in English, you’re in f***ing England”: how the British press fan the flames of linguistic discrimination

Every so often a story of linguistic discrimination makes the national news in Britain. Whether it’s offensive graffiti in an East London borough, tourists being verbally abused in the street, or acts of physical violence towards people on the tube, the motivation for these attacks is the same – the victims aren’t native English speakers.

In this talk, I demonstrate the ways in which such criminal behaviours have been at best legitimised, and at worst incited, by some sections of the British national press. I examine the ways in which non-native English speakers living in Britain are framed as a ‘problem’ for the native English majority, and how discriminatory, exclusionary and prejudiced ideologies about race, ethnicity and nationality are packaged in discourse about ‘language’.

Using a 5-million word corpus of British press reporting from 2005-2017, I explore the various ways in which non-native English speakers are vilified and demonised by the press. I also trace the development of certain discourses over time, and the means by which particular ideologies and arguments are ushered into the public debate, before being escalated and amplified. Most specifically, I observe the impact that the results of the 2011 Census had on the nature of such reporting, when it was revealed that 138,000 people (or 0.26% of the British population) do not speak English.

Dr David Wright is a forensic linguist at Nottingham Trent University. His research applies methods of corpus linguistics and discourse analysis in forensic contexts and aims to use language analysis to help improve the delivery of justice. His research spans across a range of intersections between language and the law, language in crime and evidence, and discourses of abuse, harassment and discrimination. He is co-author of An Introduction to Forensic Linguistics: Language in Evidence (with Malcolm Coulthard and Alison Johnson) and has published in international journals in forensic linguistics, corpus linguistics and critical discourse studies.

1100-1200, Wed 27th Feb, County South B89