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Computational Propaganda and the Global Disinformation Order

The Report Roundup

With disinformation on the rise and civic space closing worldwide, experts across the social sector are working to create a more independent and inclusive digital infrastructure.

The Report Roundup is a curated list for policymakers, practitioners, and community activists working at the intersection of technology and civil society.

01.The Global Disinformation Order

A report by the Oxford Internet Institute shares findings from a three-year initiative to observe organized social media manipulation around the world. A 150% increase in social media manipulation campaigns since 2017 underscores the critical nature of rooting out the causes of computational propaganda, which the Institute defines as “the use of algorithms, automation, and big data to shape public life…Although there is nothing necessarily new about propaganda, the affordances of social networking technologies—algorithms, automation, and big data—change the scale, scope, and precision of how information is transmitted in the digital age.” Includes visualizations of strategies, tools, and techniques by country.

02. Rethinking Civic Space in an Age of Intersectional Crises

The FICS 2019 strategic review developed a framework for funders to realize their potential to disrupt and reform the drivers of closing civic space through collaborative and targeted interventions. Now, the first in a series of recommendations from FICS considers how a range of factors, from false assumptions around technology to social media’s role in eroding democratic institutions through the so-called “marketplace of ideas,” created the conditions for an accelerated dismantling of civic space worldwide. Incorporating preliminary thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors make the case for finding new ways to expand the space for civic participation.

03. Internet Infrastructure and Human Rights: A Reading List

DCSL Practitioner Fellow Beatrice Martini wants tech users and makers to look at current efforts challenging digital colonialism, whose consequences are “exacerbated through the large and fast scale of the mechanism which spreads it.” The DCSL has produced a downloadable reading list companion with infographics and robust descriptions for the purpose of inspiring knowledge on the concept of decolonizing technology. Martini writes, “Questioning how and for whom tools and services are created, and with which rights and restrictions they are made accessible, shows how closely and frequently technology can reproduce colonialist paradigms.” Readers are encouraged to hold discussions and share reflections through the author’s website.

04. Digital Rights in Africa

The 2019 Digital Rights in Africa Report provides advocates with critical evidence to propel the Continent’s digital rights and inclusion movement forward. Bulanda Nkhowani, Paradigm Initiative’s Digital Rights Program Officer for Southern Africa and a report contributor, writes, “In the fight against digital rights violations in Africa, civil society must persevere and use all the tools at their disposal, including research, to ensure that digital rights become respected and upheld.” Learn more about the report.

05. A Multidimensional Framework for (Digital) Infrastructure

Drawing on experiences and insights from innovators in the public and private sectors, Siegel Family Endowment is redefining infrastructure in order to explore the intersections and interdependence of its physical, social, and digital dimensions. This multidimensional approach aims to shift how we define, design, govern, and fund infrastructure to make it more cost-effective, responsive, and resilient.

06. Data Can Make Racial Inequality More Visible

A living document developed with diverse input from The GovLab network, helps to identify how data can be used to make racial inequalities more visible, as well as how inequality can be systematically countered through collective efforts. According to the authors, the resource is intended “not as a finalized list of recommended priorities or practices but as a tool for deliberation on and assessment of data’s role in racial justice.” Includes visualizations and a crowdsourced listing of data-driven initiatives focused on issues related to racial inequality.

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