The Lawfare Podcast: The Disinformation Industrial Complex

By Jen Patja Howell
Thursday, September 2, 2021, 5:01 AM

This week on our Arbiters of Truth series on our online information ecosystem, we’re going to be talking about … disinformation! What else? It’s everywhere. It’s ruining society. It’s the subject of endless academic articles, news reports, opinion columns, and, well, podcasts.

Welcome to what BuzzFeed News reporter Joe Bernstein has termed “Big Disinformation.” In a provocative essay in the September issue of Harper’s Magazine, he argues that anxiety over bad information has become a cultural juggernaut that draws in far more attention and funding than the problem really merits—and that the intellectual foundations of that juggernaut are, to a large extent, built on sand.

Joe joined Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic to discuss his article and the response to it among researchers and reporters who work in the field. Joe explained his argument and described what it feels like to be unexpectedly cited by Facebook PR. What led him to essentially drop a bomb into an entire discipline? What does his critique mean for how we think about the role of platforms in American society right now? And … is he right?