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Scholarly Discourse on Political Misinformation: Technology and Media

By Yi Ding

Technology and Media

Scholarly discussions within the realm of misinformation also reveal the critical and multidimensional roles that technological advancements, particularly those relevant to media and information, play in the landscape of political misinformation. This influence spans the creation, dissemination, and contraction of misinformation. To elaborate, in The Martians Have Landed!: A History of Media Driven Panics and Hoaxes, Robert Bartholomew and Benjamin Radford explore historical instances in which various forms of media, ranging from print to broadcast, have played significant roles in shaping public perceptions and how false beliefs of these media-driven perceptions create or amplify public fears. Similarly, the collection Fake News: Understanding Media and Misinformation in the Digital Age, edited by Melissa Zimdars and Kembrew McLeod, offers both a multidisciplinary perspective on fake news and tools to critically engage with information in the digital era. Another collection, The Epistemology of Deceit in a Postdigital Era: Dupery by Design, edited by Alison MacKenzie, Jennifer  Rose, and Ibrar Bhatt, explores the intricacies of deception in the postdigital landscape, emphasizing the complexities of navigating misinformation in an era characterized by advanced digital technologies.

In Manufacturing Consensus: Understanding Propaganda in the Era of Automation and Anonymity, Samuel Woolley, project director for propaganda research at the Center for Media Engagement (CME) at the University of Texas, delves into various tools leveraged by politicians, political campaigns, militaries, and other political entities to create and disseminate political misinformation, which he defines as computational propaganda. It entails information platforms like encrypted messaging apps, information technologies like virtual reality, and information players like nanoinfluencers (social media users paid to spread partisan information). Woolley emphasizes the influence of flexible automation tools and policies, particularly those related to anonymity, and advocates for an information ethnography to understand these tools as important actors in the misinformation ecosystem in order to provide a holistic solution that combines technical and social approaches.

Among all technologies, social media technologies also play a noteworthy role in perpetrating political misinformation. In Web of Deceit: Misinformation and Manipulation in the Age of Social Media (mentioned earlier), a collection of essays from scholars, journalists, and subject experts, contributors delve into misinformation across various domains including identity theft, e-commerce fraud, charity scams, and politics, providing insights into these important types of intentional misinformation and their consequences, from financial ruin to death. Chapters also discuss strategies to evaluate websites, including checking the author, the publisher, the content, and the look of the website, as well as consulting fact-checker websites such as and the “Fact Checks” feature of The New York Times online. It is worth pointing out that fact-checking strategies included in this title and promoted by many information professionals have been criticized by Civic Online Reasoning scholars from Stanford University’s History Education Group, who have published impactful research papers and curriculum to foster students’ critical evaluation skills when reading political information online.3

Recognizing the dual nature of technologies as both the problem and the solution to misinformation, recent scholarly explorations have increasingly focused on the potential of technologies to detect and mitigate misinformation, offering invaluable insights and strategies to both media studies and information professionals as well as to the general public. Published in 2021 and edited by Mohamed Lahby, the collection Combating Fake News with Computational Intelligence Techniques, explores the intersection of fake news and computational intelligence. Contributing scholars delve into innovative approaches through the lens of advanced computational techniques, such as machine learning and data analytics, in detecting and mitigating the impact of fake news. The book’s interdisciplinary approach, combining computer science and information studies, renders it accessible to a broad audience interested in the technological aspects of countering misinformation. Victoria Rubin’s Misinformation and Disinformation: Detecting Fakes with the Eye and AI proposes practical and interdisciplinary interventions using artificial intelligence (AI) to fact-check information, thereby reducing the reliance on human procedure. Notably, it includes links to downloadable AI applications on an open access repository that can detect clickbait, satire, and falsehood.

3. “Magazine Articles,” Stanford History Education Group, accessed January 8, 2024,

Works Cited