Lie Machines: How Disinformation Threatens Democracy and How to Save It

June 10, 2020
11:00 am - 12:00 pm

about the event

While disinformation is not new to politics, today’s technologies enable political actors to manipulate the information ecosystem at scale and with great speed. Through massive networks of fake accounts, junk news sites, and the strategic use of conspiracy theories, half-truths, and falsehoods, authoritarian regimes and others are suffocating and dividing the public square. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, authoritarian governments and illiberal actors are drawing on similar approaches to discredit democracy while shaping international understandings of their response to the disease.

These “lie machines” are aided by expanding troves of data on individuals and an information ecosystem that facilitates polarization, outrage, and social distrust. The net result of their efforts is deadly to democracy. A new book by Philip Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, describes how these machines operate—and how they can be taken apart.



Philip Howard, Oxford Internet Institute

Laura Rosenberger, Alliance for Securing Democracy

Daniel Arnaudo, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs


moderated by

Shanthi Kalathil, International Forum for Democratic Studies


about the book

Philip Howard’s new book, Lie Machines: How to Save Democracy From Troll Armies, Deceitful Robots, Junk News Operations, and Political Operatives, offers behind-the-scenes stories from the world’s biggest and most damagingly successful misinformation initiatives. 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 explains how to shut them down.


about the participants

Philip N. Howard is director of the Oxford Internet Institute and the author of nine books, including Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up, which was praised in the Financial Times as “timely and important.” He is a frequent commentator on the impact of technology on political life, contributing to the New York TimesFinancial Times, and other media outlets.

Laura Rosenberger is director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). Before she joined GMF, she was foreign policy advisor for Hillary for America, and served in a range of positions at the State Department and the White House’s National Security Council (NSC). She has extensive background in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly Northeast Asia.

Daniel Arnaudo is an advisor at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) for information strategies, covering the intersection of democracy and technology with a special responsibility to develop programs tracking disinformation and promoting information integrity worldwide. Concurrently, he is a Cybersecurity Fellow at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies where he has worked on projects in Brazil, Myanmar, and the United States.

Shanthi Kalathil is the senior director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy. Her work focuses primarily on authoritarian challenges to democracy in the information age.


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