Disinformation Week | A reading list for instructors

Whether you are teaching a graduate course on foreign influence, disinformation, or threats to democracy; or an undergraduate global politics, media studies, or public diplomacy class, the subject of information operations is bound to engage and fascinate your students.

With the launch of our report on information operations, “The New Weapon of Choice,” ISD staff and fellows have shared their recommended readings on this topic to help you plan your syllabus as we go into the new semester.

Image: ThisIsEngineering/Pexels

Defining the problem

Alicia Wanless and James Pamment, “How do you define a problem like influence?Journal of Information Warfare, December 2019.

Catherine Theohary, “Information Warfare: Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, March 2018.

Claire Wardle, “Information Disorder: The Definitional Toolbox,” First Draft News, July 2018.

Joshua Yaffa, “Is Russian Meddling as Dangerous as We Think? ,” New Yorker, September 2020.

Juan Pablo Cardenal, Jacek Kucharczyk, Grigorij Mesežnikov, and Gabriela Pleschová, “Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence,” National Endowment for Democracy, December 2017.

See also Gabrielle Lim’s “Disinformation Annotated Bibliography

Introductory articles

Caroline Jack, “Lexicon of Lies: Terms for Problematic Information

Julie Posetti and Alice Matthews, “A Short Guide to the History of ‘Fake News’ and Disinformation: A New ICFJ Learning Module

Journalistic and policy books

Emerson Brooking and P.W. Singer, LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018).

Nina Jankowicz, How to Lose the Information War: Russia, Fake News, and the Future of Conflict (New York: Bloomsbury, 2020).

Peter Pomerantsev, This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality (New York: Public Affairs, 2019).

Richard Stengel, Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It (Washington, DC: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2019).

Clint Watts, Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists (New York City: Harper Collins, 2018).

Listen to Nina Jankowicz talking about her book on ISD’s podcast, Diplomatic Immunity:

Academic papers and books

Samantha Bradshaw and Philip Howard, “Troops, Trolls and Troublemakers: A Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation,” Computational Propaganda Research Project, working paper no. 2017.12.

Philip Howard and Samuel C. Woolley, “Political Communication, Computational Propaganda, and Autonomous Agents,” International Journal of Communication 10 (2016).

Sergey Sanovich, “Computational Propaganda in Russia: The Origins of Digital Misinformation,” Computational Propaganda Research Project, working paper no. 2017.3.

Diego A. Martin, Jacob N. Shapiro, and Michelle Nedashkovskaya, “Recent trends in online foreign influence efforts,” Journal of Information Warfare 18, no. 3 (2019).

Nathaniel Persily and Joshua Tucker, Social Media and Democracy: The State of the Field and Prospects for Reform (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020).

Case study

Russia, and the Soviet Union before it, has long sought to blur the line between fact and fiction. And Ukraine has long been a testing ground for Russian “active measures.”

Vivian S. Walker’s State Narratives in Complex Media Environments: The Case of Ukraine (ISD Case 311) begins with an examination of the origins of the strategic narrative Russia has developed about its post-Cold War identity and how that narrative has shaped Russia’s propaganda offensive in Ukraine. Walker is now the executive director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, and draws on her expertise as a former U.S. diplomat.

Following a review of key elements in Russia’s information arsenal, the case then assesses Kyiv’s counter-narratives, focusing in particular on the East/West dynamic that both defines and complicates its identity as a sovereign state. The study then assesses Ukraine’s information initiatives and assets, before concluding with a set of recommendations for achieving effective strategic narrative development and projecting a complex information environment.

Pair this case with: Public Diplomacy and the New “Old” War: Countering State-Sponsored Disinformation (2020), the latest report from U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy; and with Thomas Rid, Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare.



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