Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: The Disinformation Industrial Complex

Jen Patja Howell, Evelyn Douek, Quinta Jurecic, Joe Berstein
Thursday, September 2, 2021, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

This week on our Arbiters of Truth series on our online information ecosystem, we’re going to be talking about … disinformation! What else? It’s everywhere. It’s ruining society. It’s the subject of endless academic articles, news reports, opinion columns, and, well, podcasts.

Welcome to what BuzzFeed News reporter Joe Bernstein has termed “Big Disinformation.” In a provocative essay in the September issue of Harper’s Magazine, he argues that anxiety over bad information has become a cultural juggernaut that draws in far more attention and funding than the problem really merits—and that the intellectual foundations of that juggernaut are, to a large extent, built on sand.

Joe joined Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic to discuss his article and the response to it among researchers and reporters who work in the field. Joe explained his argument and described what it feels like to be unexpectedly cited by Facebook PR. What led him to essentially drop a bomb into an entire discipline? What does his critique mean for how we think about the role of platforms in American society right now? And … is he right?

Jen Patja Howell is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Evelyn Douek is an Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Senior Research Fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. She holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School on the topic of private and public regulation of online speech. Prior to attending HLS, Evelyn was an Associate (clerk) to the Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel of the High Court of Australia. She received her LL.B. from UNSW Sydney, where she was Executive Editor of the UNSW Law Journal.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Joe Bernstein is a reporter at Buzzfeed, covering extremism and disinformation.

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