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. Joan Donovan is Director of the Technology and Social Change (TaSC) Research Project at the Shorenstein Center. Dr. Donovan leads the field in examining internet and technology studies, online extremism, media manipulation, and disinformation campaigns.

Dr. Donovan’s research and teaching interests are focused on media manipulation, effects of disinformation campaigns, and adversarial media movements.

Dr. Donovan’s research can be found in academic peer-reviewed journals such as Social Media + Society, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (JCE), Information, Communication & Society, Social Studies of Science, and Online Information Review. Her contributions can also be found in the books, Data Science Landscape: Towards Research Standards and Protocols and Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives. Dr. Donovan’s research and expertise has been showcased in a wide array of media outlets including NPR, Washington Post, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, and more.

Prior to joining Harvard Kennedy School, Dr. Donovan was the Research Lead for Data & Society’s Media Manipulation Initiative, where she led a large team of researchers studying efforts to manipulate sociotechnical systems for political gain. She continues to hold an affiliate appointment with Data & Society.

Dr. Donovan received her Ph.D. in Sociology and Science Studies from the University of California San Diego, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics, where she studied white supremacists’ use of DNA ancestry tests, social movements, and technology.

+ 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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