FEATURE24 May 2024

Hannah Perry in seven: Disinformation, AI and democracy

x Sponsored content on Research Live and in Impact magazine is editorially independent.
Find out more about advertising and sponsorship.

AI Features Impact People Technology

Hannah Perry discusses researching disinformation and conspiracy theories, the rise of generative AI and how her experience as a teacher has helped her research career.


1. What is the biggest challenge of researching disinformation and conspiracy theories?

Not having data access to the biggest social media platforms, which restrict access from external researchers, or only make it available for a significant fee. While the EU’s Digital Services Act includes transparency provisions for accredited researchers, the UK’s Online Safety Act doesn’t mandate this, so access remains very limited.

2. How can regulators and platforms draw the line between misinformation and freedom of speech?

Lines are already drawn in law surrounding speech that we recognise is harmful and, therefore, illegal, so the task for regulators and platforms is about ensuring that illegal content is removed rapidly. Where there’s speech that can be harmful but legal – which might include misinformation – it’s more helpful to recognise this as on a spectrum of risk, where sensitivity to the topic and context is crucial for decision-making. ‘Speech’ or ‘content’ decisions need to be incredibly nuanced, so it’s important that ...