Abstract: The problem of online disinformation is only getting worse. Social media may well play a role in the US 2020 presidential election and other major political events. But that doesn’t even begin to describe what future propaganda will look like. As Samuel Woolley shows, we will soon be navigating new technologies such as human-like automated voice systems, machine learning, ‘deep-fake’ AI-edited videos and images, interactive memes, virtual reality and augmented reality. In stories both deeply researched and compellingly written, Woolley describes this future, and explains how the technology can be manipulated, who might control it and its impact on political strategy. Finally, Woolley proposes strategic responses to this threat with the ultimate goal of empowering activists and pushing technology builders to design for democracy.
Samuel Woolley is a researcher with a focus on emerging media technologies, propaganda and politics. His work looks at how automation, algorithms and AI are leveraged for both democracy and control. His forthcoming book, The Reality Game: How the Next Wave of Technology Will Break the Truth, will be released in January of 2020 by PublicAffairs/Hachette. It explores the future of digital disinformation and provides a pragmatic roadmap for how society can respond.
Woolley is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism at the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas-Austin. He is the Program Director of disinformation research at the Center for Media Engagement (CME) at UT. He holds a PhD from the University of Washington-Seattle. His academic work has appeared in the Journal of Information Technology and Politics, the International Journal of Communication, the Routledge Handbook of Media, Conflict and Security, A Networked Self: Platforms, Stories, Connections and The Political Economy of Robots. He is one of the founders of the Computational Propaganda Research Project, now based at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. Woolley is also the founder of the Digital Intelligence Lab at the Institute for the Future (IFTF)–a 50-year-old think-tank based in Palo Alto, CA.