Propaganda and Disinformation News from the Week of Oct. 13-20

The propaganda and disinformation developments this past week were dominated by US studies – either official, quasi-official or connected think-tanks, institutes and writers. All are open about their affiliations.

  • Obama’s public diplomacy head Richard Stengel talks in an Atlantic Council event about his new book, Information Wars, in which he highlights the successes of Russian propaganda in sowing confusion and distrust and the failure of ISIS propaganda. ISIS’s gloating brutality made its messaging comparatively easier to combat — “the content is the crime.” No major breakthroughs here.
  • Updates, again from the Atlantic Council (this time its Digital Forensics Research Lab) on recent developments related to bots and disinformation activities in the Middle East and North Africa. (FYI: the Atlantic Council think-tank has been around since 1961 and has been a revolving door with the American foreign policy establishment. In its early years it promoted NATO; now its remit is broader and there is some criticism of its funding patterns.)
  • Another establishment organ, Atlantic Media’s Defense One, re-examined the fight against disinformation as an aspect of counter-intelligence. Some suggestions are sensible and probably are already being done – trying to penetrate foreign adversaries disinformation operations and making faster and better use of open source information. Others are sure to raise concerns as they involve the national security machinery telling Americans what is or is not true. With polarization at current levels, that might not be viewed all together unanimously.
  • China’s propaganda chief warns against a new “Cold War mentality” on cyber-security cooperation at the Chinese censorship bureau’s annual conference.
  • A review of code of the new Chinese app Study the Great Nation, which has been downloaded at least 100 million times, shows that the app studies the user just as much. The study was by the Open Technology Fund, which, fyi, is a US-sponsored outgrowth of Radio Free Asia.

Author: Dr. John Jenks

I am a professor of Communication at Dominican University, and research the post-1945 history of propaganda and journalism.

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