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The trolls who cried wolf

Get the Trolls Out! has partnered with Are We Europe for a deep dive into disinformation, social media and pop culture. On Thursday, March 17th, the Brussels cultural centre De Buren hosted an interactive evening with poetry and panel discussions aiming to answer one question: To what extent has our pop culture and our understanding of our society been shaped by online lies?

Organized by Are We Europe in partnership with Dare to be Grey and Get the Trolls Out!, the event was moderated by Anneleen Ophoff, AWE’s new editor-in-chief.

Sarra Riahi, Policy and Advocacy Assistant in Brussels at ENORB, the European Network On Religion and Belief, represented GTTO. A recording of the event will soon be uploaded here.

From oral history to memes, and ultimately, to life-threatening conspiracy theories: false narratives have been around for a while. But what forms does disinformation take today?

The evening started with spoken words by poet Maxime Garcia Diaz, followed by an immersive keynote on conspiracy theories and how they’re affecting us by Hannah Richter, campaign manager for Dare To Be Grey. Then, in the panel discussion moderated by AWE’s Anneleen Ophoff, author Ellen McVeigh took us on a journey to Bodegraven, a Dutch town that became the unlikely centre of a satanic conspiracy theory—and suddenly received hundreds of flowers to commemorate the (non-existing) victims of a global child trafficking network. Next, Bellingcat researcher Aiganysh Aidarbekovawill shared her experience investigating conspiracies across Europe and training hundreds of journalists in truth-seeking. Finally, Sarra Riahi, from the European Network On Religion and Belief, has discovered tropes that keep appearing both on- and offline, from antisemitism to anti-vax conspiracy theories.

The audience also got to play a fun disinformation-themed game, “Never Have I Ever”. Raising green cards to mean “I have” and red cards to mean “I have never”, the audience was invited to answer questions related to disinformation, such as “Have you ever liked or shared a post without opening the link?”. A powerful and fun way to reflect on how our own behaviour is central to the health of the digital environment we interact with.

Are We Europe is a pan-European, independent magazine publishing stories with local perspectives to help us figure out what it means to share a continent. AWE recently invited young storytellers to explore the real, intimate stories of people whose lives have profoundly changed due to online disinformation. You can become an AWE member and discover the whole Disinformation issue and more here.

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