Big, If True Webinar: Technologies of the Far-Right

FRI, MAY 1, 2020 (00:00)

Recently, Luke O’Brien, a reporter at HuffPost, covered the controversy surrounding Clearview AI, a company that has amassed a large database of images and social media data of private citizens. His reporting also illustrated how right-wing activism shaped the design of the technology and flouted platforms’ terms of service in pursuit of big data.

Luke joins the Shorenstein Center’s director of research, Joan Donovan, and Biella Coleman, an anthropologist of hackers, who has studied how technopolitics can influence law and change society. They talk about how the “alt-right” developed, how they spread their ideas and what responses are necessary to prevent this from reoccurring.


Luke O’Brien’s reporting on Clearview AI and far right extremism

Whitney Phillips’ book “You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polluted Information

Joan Donovan’s MIT Tech Review article on how covid conspiracy theorists are using tech to keep conspiracy theories alive.

Image courtesy of Flickr

+ BIO: Joan Donovan

Dr. Donovan is a leading public scholar and disinformation researcher, specializing in media manipulation, political movements, critical internet studies, and online extremism. She is the Research Director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and the Director of the Technology and Social Change project (TaSC). Through TaSC, Dr. Donovan explores how media manipulation is a means to control public conversation, derail democracy, and disrupt society. TaSC conducts research, develops methods, and facilitates workshops for journalists, policy makers, technologists, and civil society organizations on how to detect, document, and debunk media manipulation campaigns.

Dr. Donovan is co-founder of Harvard Kennedy School’s Misinformation Review. Her research can be found in academic peer-reviewed journals such as Social Media + Society, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Information, Communication & Society, and Social Studies of Science. She is a columnist at MIT Technology Review, a regular contributor to the New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and PBS, and is quoted often on radio and in print.

Dr. Donovan has laid out the philosophical frameworks for how to research, report on, and understand this moment in internet history and American politics. Her conceptualizations of strategic silence, meme wars, and media manipulation campaigns provide crucial frameworks for understanding how the US got to this point. She coined many of the terms that the disinformation research field and mainstream media use to understand technology’s impact on society.

Dr. Donovan is the co-creator of the beaver emoji.

+ BIO: Luke O'Brien

Luke O’Brien covers political extremism and propaganda for HuffPost and is a contributing writer on the Highline team. He specializes in narrative and investigative features and has worked for POLITICO magazine, Deadspin, Wired News, an alt-weekly and a small-town daily. His freelance work has appeared in The Atlantic, Fortune, Rolling Stone, Fast Company, and Slate, among other publications.

+ BIO: Gabriella Coleman

Gabriella (Biella) Coleman holds the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill University. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, she researches, writes, and teaches on computer hackers and digital activism.

Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy
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