by Philip N. Howard
YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2020.240 PR
IN LIE MACHINES: HOW TO SAVE DEMOCRACY FROM TROLL ARMIES, DECEITFUL ROBOTS, Junk News Operations, and Political Operatives, Oxford University professor Philip Howard takes us on a journey through the history of the production of "lie machines" supported by the latest scientific research in the field of disinformation studies. In his view, politics is best understood as a sociotechnical system where political actors generate lies that people consume; while the algorithms, data sets, and information infrastructure determine their impact. Howard argues that just as political actors are getting very good at producing big lies, social media algorithms provide an effective way of distributing those lies, and the science of marketing lies to the right audience is improving every day.
Howard defines a lie machine as "a system of people and technologies that distribute false messages in the service of a political agenda" (13). He explains that lie machines have three components: the producers, the distributors, and the marketers. By understanding how they work together, we can devise ways to take them apart or even prevent lie machines from being built.
The book starts with the story of how Russia began its involvement in the distribution of misinformation, even before the well-resourced Internet Research Agency (IRA) came into existence. Howard received from an anonymous source the IRA's social media misinformation strategy, which provides fascinating and detailed insight into the IRA's...