Author Yochai Benkler sat down with Kelly Born on November 26, 2018 to discuss Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics.
According to the New Yorker, the Washington conventional wisdom presupposes a kind of symmetry between our polarized political parties. Liberals and conservatives, it is said, live in separate bubbles, where they watch different television networks, frequent different Web sites, and absorb different realities. The implication of this view is that both sides resemble each other in their twisted views of reality.
Network Propaganda challenges that received wisdom through the most comprehensive study yet published on media coverage of American presidential politics from the start of the election cycle in April 2015 to the one year anniversary of the Trump presidency. Analyzing millions of news stories together with Twitter and Facebook shares, broadcast television and YouTube, the book provides a comprehensive overview of the architecture of contemporary American political communications. Through data analysis and detailed qualitative case studies of coverage of immigration, Clinton scandals, and the Trump Russia investigation, the book finds that “the right-wing media ecosystem differs categorically from the rest of the media environment,” and has been much more susceptible to “disinformation, lies and half-truths.”
Yochai Benkler is the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, and faculty co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Since the 1990s he has played a role in characterizing the role of information commons and decentralized collaboration to innovation, information production, and freedom in the networked economy and society. His books include The Wealth of Networks: How social production transforms markets and freedom (Yale University Press 2006), which won academic awards from the American Political Science Association, the American Sociological Association, and the McGannon award for social and ethical relevance in communications. In 2012 he received a lifetime achievement award from Oxford University in recognition of his contribution to the study and public understanding of the Internet and information goods. His work is socially engaged, winning him the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award in 2011, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award for 2007, and the Public Knowledge IP3 Award in 2006. It is also anchored in the realities of markets, cited as “perhaps the best work yet about the fast moving, enthusiast-driven Internet” by the Financial Times and named best business book about the future in 2006 by Strategy and Business. Benkler has advised governments and international organizations on innovation policy and telecommunications, and serves on the boards or advisory boards of several nonprofits engaged in working towards an open society. His work can be freely accessed at www.benkler.org.
Kelly Born is a Program Officer for the Madison Initiative at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. She oversees grantmaking in areas including campaigns and elections, media and journalism and civic engagement. Previously, Kelly worked as a strategy consultant with the Monitor Institute, a nonprofit consulting firm, where she supported strategic planning efforts at a number of foundations. Earlier in her career, she consulted extensively with nonprofits, the private sector, and governments in the U.S., Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. Kelly’s work on impact investing and voting have been published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Her work on scenario planning was published in the book “Problem Solving, Decision Making, and Professional Judgment.” Kelly serves on the boards of two funder affinity groups: Media Impact Funders and Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement. She is a guest lecturer at both Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and UC Santa Cruz, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business with a minor in economics from Pepperdine University and a master’s degree in International Policy Studies from Stanford University.