On March 14, 2018, Chargé d’Affaires Donna Welton delivered remarks to open the Fulbright Finland seminar “Making Democracies Resilient to Modern Threats” at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki. The seminar explored new threats to democracies in the modern era, such as misinformation and influence campaigns, as well as the development of democratic responses to counter these threats. Citing just one of many, Ms. Welton noted that “Disinformation can take many forms, but its consistent intent is to muddy the debate, poison dialogue, increase polarization, and distract the public from the fundamental issues of good governance, free markets, an independent media, human rights, and democracy.” Ms. Welton also emphasized that “healthy and robust public debates such as this one based on facts, evidence, and reason are integral to civic engagement.”
More than 190 participants attended the seminar, including representatives from government, academia, media, and civil society from every Nordic and Baltic country and the United States. The seminar was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright Finland Foundation, and Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Speakers included Jonathan Albright (Columbia University), Matthew Baum (Harvard University), Adam Berinsky (MIT),Oskari Eronen (Crisis Management Institute), Richard Harknett (University of Cincinnati), Briony Swire-Thompson (Northeastern University), and Jed Willard (Harvard University).