Disinformation and the Intercept

by Henry Farrell on June 8, 2023

There’s a backstory behind this Washington Post story on Republican persecution of academics, and it’s one that doesn’t make the Intercept look good.

Jordan’s colleagues and staffers met Tuesday on Capitol Hill with a frequent target of right-wing activists, University of Washington professor Kate Starbird, two weeks after they interviewed Clemson University professors who also track online propaganda, according to people familiar with the events. Last week, Jordan (Ohio) threatened legal action against Stanford University, home to the Stanford Internet Observatory, for not complying fully with his records requests. … The push caps years of pressure from conservative activists who have harangued such academics online and in person and filed open-records requests to obtain the correspondence of those working at public universities. The researchers who have been targeted study the online spread of disinformation, including falsehoods that have been accelerated by former president and candidate Donald Trump and other Republican politicians. … Last month, the founder of the conspiracy-theory-prone outlet the Gateway Pundit and others sued Starbird and Stanford academics Alex Stamos and Renée DiResta, alleging that they are part of a “government-private censorship consortium” that tramples on free speech. …
“Whether directly or indirectly, a government-approved or-facilitated censorship regime is a grave threat to the First Amendment and American civil liberties,” Jordan wrote.

The claim that these academics are part of a “government-approved or-facilitated censorship regime” is complete bullshit. But it is bullshit that was popularized by a grossly inaccurate story at the Intercept, which purported to discover a secret collaboration between academics and DHS to censor the American right wing. [click to continue…]

Happy World Ocean Day

by Chris Armstrong on June 8, 2023

I’m off to do a talk to mark World Ocean Day, so this is posted in haste. The ocean needs advocates. It’s our biggest ecosystem, probably our biggest carbon sink, a major source of oxygen. It regulates temperatures, and drives weather patterns. Hundreds of millions of people are nutritionally dependent on fish. But the ocean is also increasingly central to the global economy, and facing threats like never before.

Climate change – which drives ocean warming and acidification – is the big one. But plastic and nitrogen pollution and destructive fishing practices are also major threats. Fish farming has an enormous environmental footprint, and now a Spanish company has plans to open the world’s first octopus farm. Plans for mining the seabed are close to fruition – or, depending on your view, they may be many years away, exaggerated to boost the share price of a few mining corporations. But one way or another, the ocean is more and more central to the global economy.

Today is a day to reflect on the kind of ocean we want: an industrialised ocean devoid of much of its present life? Or an ocean in recovery, teeming with life once more? After the second world war (when U-boats patrolled the oceans and fishing boats were forced to stay at home in much of the world) scientists were amazed at the recovery the ocean’s ecosystems had made in just a few years. Will they get the chance of recovery again?