SXSW Moments: Hacking Democracy
The Forrest Four-Cast: April 16, 2019
Did you miss something at SXSW 2019? Want to relive the magic? Look to this space over the coming weeks for links to video and audio replays of some of the most incredible experiences from this year’s event.
As the nation holds its breath (again!) for the release of the Mueller report, now is a good time to listen to some key insights from SXSW 2019 on misinformation, disinformation, and cybersecurity.
A Global Tour of Disinformation On Social Media
As part of their manipulation of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Russian trolls studied the political thriller “House of Cards” for insight into the psyche of the American public and the machinations of D.C. politicians. The cadre of state-sponsored trolls worked tirelessly for over a decade to embed themselves in pockets of social media where their manufactured opinions and fake news allowed them to influence citizens to be more polarized and even to take to the streets in manufactured protest. Computational sociologist John Kelly of Graphika walks through what a modern disinformation campaign looks like, who the players are in global disinformation, and the tactics they use to manipulate information online and foment unrest among an unwitting public.
Fighting Misinformation and Defending the Open Web
The spread of misinformation is becoming an increasing problem around the world. In particular during election times, social media platforms have been used to strategically to influence public opinion — from the Philippines to Kenya, from Germany to the USA. Lack of net neutrality and the dominance of platforms like Facebook, with its zero rating services, are contributing to impact democracy. Internet activists from Africa, Europe and the USA give insights into different government attempts to introduce legislation to combat the spread of misinformation as well as civil society strategies to defend freedom of speech and promote access to pluralistic information sources.
Simulating Criminal Hackers to Strengthen Security
Criminal hacking and unauthorized digital intrusions are at an all-time high and we frequently witness cyber espionage play out on a global stage. Still, public understanding of the techniques employed to accomplish these digital intrusions remains stagnant. Meanwhile, technology systems continue to grow in complexity as layers of abstraction enable building intricate systems without fully understanding the supporting technology. These realities cumulate into an inability to properly defend information assets. In other words, things get “hacked” because we don’t understand what we are protecting or who we are protecting it from. To combat this digital fog of war, modern enterprises deploy Red Teams to simulate the adversary. In this session, learn how and why it pays to play the bad guy.
The Battle of Local News vs. Disinformation
Local communities are weaker without robust news ecosystems. Civic engagement declines, public financing costs more, and residents no longer get the information they need to understand critical issues, make good decisions and hold elected officials to account. A movement is underway to revitalize local news across the country in an effort to better inform Americans, building relationships of trust between news organizations and their communities to shut out misinformation and disinformation. This panel features leaders in this movement including Vivian Schiller, CEO of Civil Foundation; Craig Newmark, head of Craig Newmark Philanthropies; R.L. Nave, editor-in-chief of Mississippi Today; and Steven Waldman, co-founder and president of Report for America.
More Memories from SXSW 2019
Social Media Power
New Media Stories
May the Fourth
Women in Tech
Thriving at Work
Making a Difference
Fighting Fake News
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.