Declining trust in news and information isn’t a new problem for our culture, but it is an increasingly urgent one. We’ve arrived at the crisis level, red lights flashing and alarm bells ringing. There’s no denying that this crisis is driving us apart, degrading our civic dialogue and putting our very democracy at risk.
The Consortium on Trust in Media and Technology is born from the realization that the problem is pervasive and complex – it isn’t a problem just for news organizations and journalists. Misinformation, disinformation and the degradation of trust permeates all of our lives. The work of our first class of Trust Scholars is emblematic of our mission to explore the causes of the trust crisis and to search for solutions.
From using machine learning to identify “deep fakes” to developing curriculum to help eighth-graders navigate the online world to identifying ways to build trust when communities are devastated by disaster, these Trust Scholars have set the bar for the Consortium’s work going forward.
We’re at the very beginning of that work. The trust crisis has largely been seen as a media problem, defined by fake news, social media echo chambers and the decline of local newspapers. That’s at the heart of the issue, and it is at the core of what CTMT is designed to address. But as the work of our Trust Scholars demonstrates, the problem extends beyond journalism, and we have to understand its pervasiveness if we have a hope in the world of repairing it.
That means understanding how the pace of technology affects trust. It means looking at how policies and laws build trust or help destroy it. It means understanding how our culture can reinforce an appreciation for facts. It means examining the ways representation, access and equity to information and technology affect trust.
CTMT is exceptionally well positioned to contribute to that work. We’re housed at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications, one of the nation’s top journalism schools. We’re committed to working across disciplines. In fact, our Trust Scholars represent the fields of education, philosophy, linguistics, agriculture and architecture, in addition to journalism and communications.
We’re also bolstered by UF’s vision to become a national leader in AI application across the curriculum. UF’s $70 million AI partnership with NVIDIA – the company that invented the graphics processing unit that redefined modern computer graphics and is driving much of modern AI – gives us access to the fastest AI supercomputer in higher education.
I’m proud to be the inaugural Managing Director of the Consortium on Trust in Media and Technology. I’m honored to share the work of our Trust Scholars with you. And I’m excited about the journey ahead. I invite you to follow along with us as we share what we learn.