RGU event to look at the impact of ‘fake news’ on politics

Academics, politicians, journalists and a number of local schools will convene at Robert Gordon University (RGU) next week to consider the implications of ‘fake news’ for democracy.

Aberdeen Business SchoolRoss Thomson (MP for Aberdeen South) and Mark McDonald (MSP for Aberdeen Donside and Minister for Childcare and Early Years in the Scottish Government) will be joined by STV journalist Louise Hosie and former editor of The Press and Journal Damian Bates to share their experiences of fake news and its impact upon democratic politics.

Their views will be complemented by the input of RGU academics Dr Iain MacLeod, Dr Graeme Baxter, Professor Simon Burnett, Dr Nicola Furrie-Murphy, Professor Sarah Pedersen and Dr Lizzy Tait in debating the question of ‘fake news’ and politics.

Around a dozen local schools will be sending S5 and S6 pupils to the event, which has relevance both to the subjects covered at secondary school and by RGU’s degree courses.

At the event, the RGU academics will explore the phenomenon of ‘fake news’, which has played a prominent role in the news agenda over the past 18 months and was named as the “word of the year” by the Collins Dictionary earlier this week.

The RGU academics will also debate whether ‘fake news’ represents a threat to democratic politics, and will offer guidance on how to spot and deal with ‘fake news’.

Pupils will then hear the first-hand experiences of the invited speakers, before being able to quiz them directly on the topic. Throughout the event, the pupils will also be engaged through the use of electronic voting on a range of issues relating to ‘fake news’.

The event is part of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Sciences and will be held on Monday 6th November from 9.30am to 12.30pm in Lecture Theatre 222 at Aberdeen Business School.

Event organiser, Dr Iain MacLeod, said: “The topic of ‘fake news’ has become a regular feature of the mainstream news agenda over the past 18 months, particularly in relation to high-profile political issues such as Brexit and the US presidential campaign.

“In itself, this raises questions about the authenticity of the news we rely on to shape our political opinions and actions, but it also invites us to ask important questions about what we actually classify as ‘fake’.

“Should satirical publications be viewed in the same terms as clickbait articles which are purposely designed to mislead people? How can we distinguish ‘fake news’ from real news? By holding this debate and by allowing our school guests to quiz real-world experts like our invited politicians and journalists, we hope that this event will help them to look at news output in a more critical light.”

The annual ESRC Festival of Social Science is a week-long celebration of the social sciences and social science research, taking place from 4th – 11th November across the UK. A full programme is available at

There is a £50 gift token prize for the student(s) whose tweets or questions about the event are judged by the RGU academics to be the most engaged and/or imaginative.

The Twitter handle to which questions should be sent is @RGUfoss. Tweets should also contain the general ESRC Festival hashtag, #esrcfestival. The winner(s) will be selected from the questions posed at the event itself and/or the tweets sent to @RGUfoss between Tuesday 31st October and Friday 10th November.


Release by Rob Smith
Communications Officer
Press and Media Enquiries