Digital disinformation and the 2020 election: ‘It’s going to be a complete mess’

Journalists, scholars offer dire assessment of the preparedness of big tech platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to handle the coming wave of fake news and electoral meddling

The scourge of disinformation associated with the 2016 election was just the tip of the iceberg compared to what we’ll see in 2020, panelists predicted at a Johns Hopkins University forum on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a complete mess this election cycle,” Politico reporter Nancy Scola said of the social media forces at play internationally and domestically in politics.

The journalists and scholars who convened for Tuesday’s roundtable warned that the big tech platforms—Facebook, YouTube, Google, and Twitter—aren’t prepared to handle that mess.

“It just seems like technology is outrunning old institutions like elections,” said Scott Shane, reporter for The New York Times‘ Washington bureau and part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for its reporting on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Wednesday’s forum, Digital Media in the 2020 Election, was co-hosted by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University along with the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life at UNC Chapel Hill.

The roundtable grew from an ongoing research effort called Digital Political Ethics, which focuses on issues of electoral fairness and integrity. The group of scholars includes JHU political science professor Adam Sheingate, Jesse Baldwin-Philippi of Fordham University, and Daniel Kreiss of UNC Chapel Hill. The latter two attended Wednesday’s forum.

Continue reading on the Hub.