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We are in a global epistemological crisis, one that's largely invisible by design.

The impact of the long-term cultivation of information channels that sow distrust of institutions and spread "alternative facts" has been magnified and globalized by the reckless power of Facebook, Google and other information intermediaries. These corporations sweep up the details of our lives to persuade, predict and nudge, undermining our freedom and safety while making it easy and profitable to spread hate, lies, anger and distrust, damaging our ability to agree on how we can arrive at factual truth and cultivate generosity and common understanding.

It will take a combination of efforts to overcome this crisis: political will, legislation, public policy, responsible technological improvements and civic engagement, as well as knowledge of the social and historical roots of our fractures, insights from information and media studies, and a broader definition of what it means to be information literate.

Higher education needs to do everything it can to bring its best traditions, knowledge, values and commitment to the public good to the struggle as we deal with this crisis. It matters.

We have much to contribute if we have the will.

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