The Coming Disinformation War

We’re in the middle of a disinformation war. Hostile nations, politicians, scammers and internet trolls are deliberately challenging our ability to tell what’s real. The effects of such concentrated campaigns to warp the truth directly affected the 2016 election and it’s likely to happen again.

Internet reporters Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny were among the first journalists to uncover the Russian disinformation operation and its links to conservative and far-right movements online. This year, they continued to track and document the inner workings behind disinformation and conspiracy campaigns that affected individuals and governments at large and attracted attention around the world.

This year, bad actors will continue to capitalize on the Internet’s ability to propel conspiracy theories into the public consciousness. The president’s alleged extortion of Ukraine to pursue a conspiracy theory exonerating Russia from its own disinformation campaign is at the heart of impeachment. Because of the Internet’s power to amplify, fringe characters — from white power extremists to QAnon believers to the anti-vaccination coalition — all have an out-sized impact on the future of our country.

Reporting from the front lines, Ben and Brandy (plus Joan Donovan from the Shorenstein Center On Media, Politics, And Public Policy) will discuss the threat posed by media manipulation, conspiracy campaigns, and other propagandistic tactics used by these and other disinformation dealers. They’ll talk about what they’re seeing in 2020 and whether we can protect ourselves and our democracy from the disinformation tsunami coming our way.

Programming descriptions are generated by participants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SXSW.

photo of Ben Collins
Ben Collins

NBC News

photo of Joan Donovan
Joan Donovan

Boston University

photo of Brandy Zadrozny
Primary Access
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