Image - Samuel Woolley
Image - Samuel Woolley

How We Can Reduce the Power of False Narratives

In this third part of our series on conspiracy theories and other false narratives, we'll look at actions society can take to defend itself. We'll focus on what journalists and educators can do, what technology companies can do, and what government and individuals can do.

Our speaker, Dr. Samuel Woolley, will discuss media literacy, technologies for quick detection and management of false narratives, the role of governmental regulation, and actions we can take as individuals.


Eric Siegel


The following resources were provided by the moderator and the speaker; The Commonwealth Club is not responsible for the content or the links.

Resources and References

Books (some are free downloads):

  • Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin D. West. (2020) Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World. Random House.
  • John Cook. The COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Handbook.
  • Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook. (2020) The Conspiracy Theory Handbook
  • Dan Pfeiffer. (2022) Battling the Big Lie. Twelve.
  • Samuel Woolley. (2020) The Reality Game: How the Next Wave of Technology Will Break the Truth. PublicAffairs, Hachette Book Group.
  • Samuel Woolley. (2022) Manufacturing Consensus: Understanding Propaganda in the Era of Automation and Anonymity. Yale University Press.

Detecting False Information:


Civic and Media Education:

Constructive Communications:

Further Reading:

  • Daniel Arnaudo, Samantha Bradshaw, Hui Hui Ooi, Kaleigh Schwalbe, Amy Studdart, Vera Zakem, Amanda Zink. Combating Information Manipulation: A Playbook for Elections and Beyond. National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, Stanford Internet Observatory.…
  • Paul M. Barrett, Mariana Olaizola Rosenblat. (2022) Spreading The Big Lie: How Social Media Sites Have Amplified False Claims of U.S. Election Fraud. NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.…
  • Yochai Benkler, Hal Roberts, Robert Faris Network Propaganda. (2018) Oxford Academic. (Chapter 13, "What Can Men Do Against Such Reckless Hate," available free:
  • Ullrich K. H. Ecker, Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook, Philipp Schmid, Lisa K. Fazio, Nadia Brashier, Panayiota Kendeou, Emily K. Vraga, Michelle A. Amazeen. The Psychological Drivers Of Misinformation Belief And Its Resistance To Correction. Nature Reviews Psychology, 1, 13-29.
  • Ryan C. Moore, Jeffrey T. Hancock. A Digital Media Literacy Intervention For Older Adults Improves Resilience To Fake News. Nature Scientific Reports 12, Article 6008 (2022).
  • Matthew P. Rowe, B. Marcus Gillespie, Kevin R. Harris, Steven D. Koether, Li-Jen Y. Shannon, Lori A. Rose. Redesigning a General Education Science Course to Promote Critical Thinking. CBE - Life Sciences Education, 14(3), 1-12.
  • Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review
  • Nick Monaco and Samuel Woolley. (2022). Bots. Polity Press, Digital Media and Society series.
  • Philip Howard and Samuel Woolley (Eds.). (2018). Computational Propaganda: Political Parties, Politicians, and Political Manipulation on Social Media. Oxford University Press, Oxford Studies in Digital Politics series
Image - Samuel Woolley

Dr. Samuel Woolley

Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Program Director of the Propaganda Research Lab, University of Texas-Austin; Author, The Reality Game: How the Next Wave of Technology Will Break the Truth, Computational Propaganda, and numerous academic and popular articles

Image - Eric Siegel

Eric Siegel

Chair, Personal Growth Member-led Forum, The Commonwealth Club of California—Moderator