This talk examines the relationship between information technology and governance. In today’s debates over social media, a commonly-heard claim is that democracy is threatened by fake news, i.e. that false information disseminated through false accounts generates societal divisions that undermine governance. Without denying the validity of such claims, Klein argues that a greater challenge to governance is posed by true news. In governing, states commonly use communication media to achieve citizen consent, disseminating strategic narratives that justify policies and amplifying some information while filtering out other information, all in an effort to achieve social order without coercion. This governance by information is vulnerable to subversion by counter-information, i.e. by dissent. Such dissent need not be fake; it may present excluded views, criticize government policies, or expose real malfeasance. Dissent may undermine state legitimacy and reduce consent, generating social pressure for new policies, new governing parties, or even new constitutional orders. Dissent can have all the subversive power attributed to fake news — but it is not fake. “True” news can be subversive.
The Internet makes it cost-effective to disseminate news across borders. States can now more easily promote dissent in each other’s society, using true news to subvert governance. Such “subversion” may work by increasing democracy in the target society.
Hans Klein is CITP’s Microsoft Visiting Professor of Information Technology Policy for the 2018-19 academic year. His research focuses on two areas: policy processes/institutional design for Internet governance and the overlap between political dissent and information warfare.
Klein received a BS.EECS from Princeton in 1983, an M.S. in technology and policy from MIT in 1993, and a Ph.D. in political science from MIT in 1996. He comes to CITP from the School of Public Policy at Georgia Tech.
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