Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: How to Report on Hacks and Disinformation

Jen Patja, Alina Polyakova, Quinta Jurecic, Janine Zacharia, Andrew J. Grotto
Thursday, October 22, 2020, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

On this episode of Lawfare's Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Alina Polyakova and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Janine Zacharia, the Carlos Kelly McClatchy Lecturer in Stanford’s Department of Communication, and Andrew Grotto, director of the Program on Geopolitics, Technology and Governance and the William J. Perry International Security Fellow at Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center.

In 2016, a key part of the Russian influence campaign involved the hacking and leaking of emails belonging to the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Journalists at mainstream news outlets rushed to write up the emails without giving adequate context to how they had been obtained.

So how can the press avoid a similar disaster in 2020? Zacharia and Grotto teamed up in recent months to write a playbook for reporters facing the dilemma of writing about hacked material or disinformation without participating in a disinformation campaign. (They’ve also written an article on the subject for Lawfare.) They spoke with Alina and Quinta about their recommendations for reporters, what the American press might be able to learn from colleagues abroad and how to assess the mainstream media’s response to the New York Post’s bizarre reporting on Hunter Biden.

Jen Patja 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.
Alina Polyakova is the David M. Rubenstein Fellow in the Foreign Policy program's Center on the United States and Europe and adjunct professor of European studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
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.
Janine Zacharia, a former reporter for the Washington Post, Bloomberg and other news outlets, is the Carlos Kelly McClatchy Lecturer in the Department of Communication at Stanford University where she teaches journalism. She writes regularly on foreign affairs, the intersection of technology and national security and the media.
Andrew J. Grotto is the William J. Perry International Security Fellow at Stanford University and the founding director of the Program on Geopolitics, Technology and Governance at the Stanford Cyber Policy Center. He serves as the faculty lead for the Cyber Policy and Security specialization in Stanford's Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy degree program and teaches the core cyber policy course for the specialization. He is also a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. He served as senior director for cyber policy on the National Security Council during the Obama and Trump administrations from late 2015 through May of 2017.

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