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[WEBINAR] What Higher Education Needs to Know About Disinformation and COVID-19

An online forum hosted by PEN America’s Campus Free Speech Program

This is PEN America’s sixth online forum in our webinar series, “Free Speech & the Virtual Campus.” More webinars will be announced.

In February 2020, as the world began grappling with responses to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the World Health Organization identified a disturbing “infodemic” plaguing our digital lives. With individuals online more than ever and seeking credible information about the outbreak, disinformation is also on the rise, posing unique threats to the fabric of our democracy. The deluge of false and misleading content poses new challenges to higher education, particularly as colleges and universities face the prospect of operating online this fall.

Join PEN America as we explore the disinformation phenomenon and provide audiences with a sense of the knowledge and skills to become more discerning news consumers, better empowered to defend themselves against disinformation.



Nora BenevidezNora Benavidez is the director of PEN America’s U.S. Free Expression Programs, where she guides the organization’s national advocacy agenda on First Amendment and free expression issues to defend press freedom where journalists are targeted for their work, to combat disinformation which threatens to erode engagement in democratic institutions, and to fight back against forms of censorship that chill writers. She also manages PEN America’s media literacy program, which works with communities and newsrooms to help equip online users with tools to better combat the spread of disinformation. Benavidez is a lawyer by training, and prior to joining PEN America, she worked in private practice and at the ACLU of Georgia as a civil and human rights litigator.

Filippo MenczerFilippo Menczer is Distinguished Professor of Informatics and Computer Science at the Indiana University School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, director of the Observatory on Social Media, and a member (and former director) of the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research. Menczer also has courtesy appointments in cognitive science and physics, serves on the advisory board of the IU Network Science Institute (IUNI), and is a fellow of the Center for Computer-Mediated Communication, a senior research fellow of the Kinsey Institute, and a fellow at the ISI Foundation in Torino, Italy.

Brandy ZadroznyBrandy Zadrozny is a librarian turned award-winning investigative journalist based in New York. She covers disinformation, extremism, and the internet. Previously, Brandy was at The Daily Beast, where she covered politics and the internet as a senior reporter.


Jonathan FriedmanJonathan Friedman is the program director for Campus Free Speech at PEN America, where he oversees PEN America’s advocacy, analysis, and outreach in the national debate around free speech and inclusion in higher education. He served as lead author on PEN America’s 2019 report, Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America, and on the production of its digital Campus Free Speech Guide. Friedman holds a Ph.D. in international education from New York University, and he has previously received awards for his teaching, research, and leadership.