New Year, Fresh Threats

FRI, JAN 29, 2021 (00:00)

What can mis- and disinformation scholars learn from the security studies field? What happens when security threats are inflated by governments? And how do security scholars analyze and account for civil liberties against the rise of digital search tools and surveillance?

The beginning of 2021 brings with it both new and old vulnerabilities and uncertainties: the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines, cybersecurity data breaches and hacks, openings to expand state power, and opportunities for resistance. As we embrace the unsettled state of things, governments and media manipulators may capitalize on a fragile media ecosystem and shifting political landscapes. For many security studies scholars, it is important to understand how advanced information technologies create national vulnerabilities, increase instabilities in international relations, exploit and stockpile user data, and allow unauthorized people to intercept and infiltrate communications.

Joan Donovan, Director of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, hosts cyber security experts Susan Landau, Erik Lin-Greenberg, and Gabrielle Lim to discuss what this means for mis- and disinformation campaigns, and how interdisciplinary collaboration can unmask new strategies for pushing back against government overreach.

Photo: Pexels/Christina Morillo

+ BIO: Susan Landau

Susan Landau is a professor in cyber security and policy, and splits her time between Fletcher and Tufts University’s School of Engineering (as a professor of Computer Science).

Susan works at the intersection of cybersecurity, national security, law, and policy. She has testified before Congress, written for the Washington Post, Science, and Scientific American, and frequently appears on NPR and BBC. Her previous positions include senior staff privacy analyst at Google, distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems, and faculty member at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Wesleyan University.

+ BIO: Erik Lin-Greenberg

Erik Lin-Greenberg is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at MIT. His research examines how emerging military technology affects conflict dynamics and the regulation and use of force. Lin-Greenberg’s current book project leverages experimental methods, archival research, elite interviews, and surveys to study how remote warfighting technologies – like drones and cyber warfare – shape crisis escalation. In other ongoing projects, he explores how technology influences alliance relationships and public attitudes toward the use of force, and is interested in the role of food in international politics. His research has been supported by the Eisenhower Institute, the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, the Smith Richardson Foundation, Tobin Project, and Columbia University. He previously worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House, and as a Carnegie Pre-doctoral Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.

+ BIO: Gabrielle Lim

Gabrielle Lim is a researcher with the Technology and Social Change (TaSC) Research Project at Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center, as well as a fellow with Citizen Lab. She researches information controls and security, with a focus on disinformation and media manipulation.

In 2019, she was an Open Technology Fund Information Controls fellow at Data & Society. She also was an Open Society Foundations grantee in 2017, completing a research project on far-right activity on Twitter. In 2018, she received a Masters of Global Affairs from the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.

+ 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.

Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy
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