May 23, 2022

At IOP Disinformation Conference, Obama Warns of “Anger, Resentment, Conflict, Division”

Some countries put up with being used as platforms for international online swindles, so long as they are not aimed at their own citizens. The journalist who covers such stuff in those countries, when looking up the fraud artists online, finds a plethora of bogus promotional stuff, made to look like it's from other sources. Search engines are gamed so that disinformation about the scam is the first several pages of anything that comes up. This criminal modus operandi was common enough before being introduced into politics. Now it has a life in the political discourse of the United States and a number of other countries.
Former President Barack Obama joined Nobel and Pulitzer laureates and other top journalists at a University of Chicago conference last month on Disinformation and the Erosion of Democracy. The discussion needs to continue far and wide, and get deeper. Those of us who were taught how the Nazis adapted the late 19th century Wall Street "big lie" ad campaigns — typically about patent medicines at the time — and applied them to German racist politics in 1930s media should update our knowledge about how this sort of thing is done today. With the former president, Filipina Nobel laureate journalist Maria Ressa and Pulitzer prize winner Anne Applebaum we get the lay of the cyber-landscape on which we must fight this year's campaign.

Thanks to Eric Jackson for these contributions.