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Public Lecture: Rediscovering the Dark Artists Crafting our Digital Age

Emma Briant
Friday, December 2, 2022, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm


This is the keynote lecture of the OSRP conference, entitled 'Technology, Transparency, and New Closures in Open Society. Dr. Briant will explain through examples how dominant approaches to researching and theorizing online propaganda based on a dominant research focus on tracking falsehood's influence and distribution online, present a partial and misleading frame for understanding and responding to propaganda. She argues through examples for an ethical, conceptual and methodological need to reject the new 'Disinformation Studies,' and a need to build on traditions of early 20th Century Propaganda Studies with greater focus on the actors, systems, industry and organization behind propaganda - as well as their governance and accountability. While some of these early studies were overly deterministic and is important to understand propaganda's effects and limitations, we now must recognize there must be a holistic 'third way' for the discipline that reverses the abandonment of 'production studies' in propaganda. Dr. Briant highlights how contemporary approaches to disinformation shift responses away from those seeking to deceive or enabling deceptive processes. Over-emphasis on existence of falsehood and its effects, rather than its production, has prioritized divisive responses such as content moderation and methods that undermine citizens' speech and threaten democracy. In an age of profitable deception with concealed weapons of influence all around us, Dr. Briant argues we must force a new public debate and policy focus, back onto powerful industry, including that of our own governments, taking on underground influence and the 'Mercenaries of Deceit'.