Investigating disinformation: uOttawa’s Professional Development Institute leads Canada’s first cross-disciplinary lab researching, exposing fake news

Woman's hands using cell phone
Information Integrity Lab will bring together a cross-disciplinary international network of experts to highlight actor behind misinformation, provide solutions

As disinformation spreads across social media, undermining democratic institutions and eroding trust in governments, the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute is bringing together an international team of experts, researchers, academics and practitioners dedicated to the preservation of truth and countering the ill effects of disinformation to launch the Information Integrity Lab.

As the current crisis in Ottawa has shown, perpetrators of disinformation are increasing their sophistication and abilities to sew division, conflict and, even, violence pose a serious risk for the average citizen . With the problem growing, the need to better understand this phenomenon and take measures to counter the disinformation crisis is more important than ever. Mitigating disinformation while respecting guarantees of freedom of expression will, however, represent a challenge.

Jacques Frémont, President and Vice-Chancellor

“Knowledge, facts and truth are being challenged, and challenged very aggressively. Disinformation and fake news are being used not only by individuals and organizations, but also by state actors to...”

Jacques Frémont, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Ottawa

As the first of its kind in Canada, the Information Integrity Lab will research disinformation sources, motivations, capabilities and intentions of malign state and non-state actors. It will draw on resources that intersect the disciplines of computer engineering, humanities, law, data analytics, and human rights.

Key objectives of the Lab include building awareness and a detailed understanding of who is propagating disinformation, how it is propagated and why; issuing reports, background briefs, and analyses to the public, governments and industry on specific events, trends, and patterns; researching and developing methodologies and tools that will aid in identifying disinformation and defending digital assets; providing recommendations for public policy and the application of the rule of law in the cyber domain specifically aimed at disinformation; training on how to assess risk, how to understand threat intelligence, and propose defensive strategies to build reliance and protection.

The University of Ottawa’s Information Integrity Lab will work with organizations such as the Rutgers University Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), the world’s foremost expert in identifying and forecasting the threat and spread of misinformation and disinformation across social media platforms, FX Innovation, a Canadian leader in digital transformation with expertise in cloud computing and artificial intelligence, the University of Ottawa-IBM Cyber Range, a $20M world-class cyber centre, made available to the Information Integrity Lab for training, simulations and research and the existing uOttawa Professional Development Institute’s Information and Cyber Security Program.

About University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute 
The University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (u-Ottawa PDI) occupies a unique position in the field of advanced education and applied leadership training. Located in the heart of Canada’s capital, near several important national institutions, uOttawa-PDI develops and delivers innovative online and in-person learning for leaders across sectors in both official languages. Courses and programs are built upon a solid foundation of providing professional development and executive training nationally and internationally for more than a generation.

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