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All of us are exposed to information manipulation - Welcome to follow open lectures and learn what that means

Informational influence and information manipulation touch every one of us. For that reason, the Information Networks Programme welcomes everyone to come and learn about this phenomenon.
Opiskelija istuu kannettavan tietokoneen ääressä
Improving critical thinking skills is one of the goals of this course. Photo: Unto Rautio / Aalto University

Update 20 March: All lectures will be streamed online. Please contact Vesa Kantola in order to take part in the lectures.

Update 13 March: Due to the coronavirus situation, the guest lectures will be streamed online or cancelled. More information will follow.

What goes on inside the head of a criminal, dictator, or another individual ‘bad guy’ when they start spreading disinformation in the social media? The students at the Aalto University course ‘Manipulaation perusteet informaatioverkostoissa’ go inside the head of these evildoers and use this as a method to learn how to defeat them in an information war.

The lecturers of the Degree Programme in Information Networks organized the course for the first time last year when it also ended up in the Finnish news. This year's course has been designed together with National Defence University, and the lecturer in charge Vesa Kantola and professor of practice Risto Sarvas want to welcome everyone to follow the open lectures given this spring on Thursday afternoons. Even though the course is taught in Finnish, some guest lectures will be given in English.

‘The only effective way to fight against informational influence is to have as broad general knowledge as possible and think critically about things happening around us and the sources we receive information from. Our aim at this course is to create and develop such critical thinking together,’ says Vesa Kantola.

According to Risto Sarvas, the course is important because informational influence reaches the whole society from the civil service to individual citizens. ‘How we are influenced as a state, often happens through our citizens. Unlike the traditional cyber-attacks online, informational influence is an everyday thing and we don’t necessarily even notice it.’

Those parties that want to influence average people use the same digital channels in which we spend time and read the news every day. ‘That is why it’s extremely important that all of us understand the tools, channels and methods of information manipulation. We cannot technically prevent malicious information manipulation, so the only effective way is to make sure that people are aware of it and understand what happens around them,’ Sarvas continues.

The lectures are open for everyone, and the list of guest speakers is impressive with names such as Jessikka Aro, a well-known journalist and author, and Mikko Hyppönen, an information security expert from F-Secure. Informational influence is a complex topic, for which reason Kantola and Sarvas wanted to invite speakers who understand and can explain different aspects of the phenomenon.

The course will run until the end of May. Students can either just attend the lectures or write a learning diary and get one credit for the course. In addition to that, twenty students at Aalto University have the possibility to complete a five-credit course by attending both lectures and weekly workgroup sessions. The workgroups also have room for four people in total who are currently employed and already have some work experience.

English lectures of the series:

Monday 23 March at 14:15-15:00 Jessikka Aro: Trolls and Fake News - online stream (link will be added later)
Thursday 26 March at 17:15-18:00 Sam Wrigley: GDPR Law
Thursday 16 April at 17:15-18:00 Steve El-Sharawy: Data-analytics

The lectures will be held in the lecture hall TU2 in Maarintie 8, Otaniemi. The guest lectures will be either streamed online or cancelled.

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