Philip N. Howard

Apr 12, 2021

Lie Machines

How to Save Democracy from Troll Armies, Deceitful Robots, Junk News Operations, and Political Operatives

Yale University Press 2020

Technology is breaking politics - what can be done about it? Artificially intelligent "bot" accounts attack politicians and public figures on social media. Conspiracy theorists publish junk news sites to promote their outlandish beliefs. Campaigners create fake dating profiles to attract young voters. We live in a world of technologies that misdirect our attention, poison our political conversations, and jeopardize our democracies. With massive amounts of social media and public polling data, and in-depth interviews with political consultants, bot writers, and journalists, Philip N. Howard offers ways to take these "lie machines" apart. Lie Machines: How to Save Democracy from Troll Armies, Deceitful Robots, Junk News Operations, and Political Operatives (Yale UP, 2020) is full of riveting behind the scenes stories from the world's biggest and most damagingly successful misinformation initiatives--including those used in Brexit and U.S. elections. Howard not only shows how these campaigns evolved from older propaganda operations but also exposes their new powers, gives us insight into their effectiveness, and shows us how to shut them down. 

As dangerous as things are now, they will only get worse; the enormous flood of data coming from the so-called Internet of Things, along with the growing sophistication of artificial intelligence, will make disinformation easier to generate and disseminate and much harder to spot and remove. Howard tackles the tough task of suggesting the changes that are needed to create a radically redesigned social media ecosystem that would reinforce, rather than erode, democracy.

Medha Prasanna is an MA candidate at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. Her current research focuses on International Organizations and Human Rights Law. You can learn more about her here or email her medp16@gwu.edu

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Medha Prasanna

Medha Prasanna is an MA candidate at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. Her current research focuses on International Organizations and Human Rights Law. You can learn more about her here or email her medp16@gwu.edu

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