U.S. Has Changed In Key Ways In The Past Decade, From Tech Use To Demographics

U.S. Has Changed In Key Ways In The Past Decade, From Tech Use To Demographics. Pew Research Center.  Katherine Schaeffer. December 20, 2019

The past decade in the United States has seen technological advancements, demographic shifts and major changes in public opinion. Pew Research Center has tracked these developments through surveys, demographic analyses and other research. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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10 Tech-Related Trends That Shaped the Decade

10 Tech-Related Trends That Shaped the Decade. Pew Research Center. Brooke Auxier, Monica Anderson And Madhu Kumar. December 20, 2019

The tech landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade, both in the United States and around the world. There have been notable increases in the use of social media and online platforms (including YouTube and Facebook) and technologies (like the internet, cellphones and smartphones), in some cases leading to near-saturation levels of use among major segments of the population. But digital tech also faced significant backlash in the 2010s. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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The Democracy Playbook: Preventing and Reversing Democratic Backsliding

The Democracy Playbook: Preventing and Reversing Democratic Backsliding. Brookings Institution. Norman Eisen et al. November 2019

The Democracy Playbook sets forth strategies and actions that supporters of liberal democracy can implement to halt and reverse democratic backsliding and make democratic institutions work more effectively for citizens. The strategies are deeply rooted in the evidence: what the scholarship and practice of democracy teach us about what does and does not work. We hope that diverse groups and individuals will find the syntheses herein useful as they design catered, context-specific strategies for contesting and resisting the illiberal toolkit. This playbook is organized into two principal sections: one dealing with actions that domestic actors can take within democracies, including retrenching ones, and the second section addressing the role of international actors in supporting and empowering pro-democracy actors on the ground. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 100 pages].

Fighting Disinformation Online: A Database of Web Tools

Fighting Disinformation Online: A Database of Web Tools. RAND Corporation. Jennifer Kavanagh, Hilary Reininger, Norah Griffin. November 12, 2019

The rise of the internet and the advent of social media have fundamentally changed the information ecosystem, giving the public direct access to more information than ever before. But it’s often nearly impossible to distinguish between accurate information and low-quality or false content. This means that disinformation — false or intentionally misleading information that aims to achieve an economic or political goal — can become rampant, spreading further and faster online than it ever could in another format.

As part of its Truth Decay initiative, RAND is responding to this urgent problem. Researchers identified and characterized the universe of online tools developed by nonprofits and civil society organizations to target online disinformation. The tools in this database are aimed at helping information consumers, researchers, and journalists navigate today’s challenging information environment. Researchers identified and characterized each tool on a number of dimensions, including the type of tool, the underlying technology, and the delivery format.

Hostile Social Manipulation: Present Realities and Emerging Trends

Hostile Social Manipulation: Present Realities and Emerging Trends. RAND Corporation.  Michael J. Mazarr et al. September 4, 2019.

The role of information warfare in global strategic competition has become much more apparent in recent years. Today’s practitioners of what this report’s authors term hostile social manipulation employ targeted social media campaigns, sophisticated forgeries, cyberbullying and harassment of individuals, distribution of rumors and conspiracy theories, and other tools and approaches to cause damage to the target state. These emerging tools and techniques represent a potentially significant threat to U.S. and allied national interests. This report represents an effort to better define and understand the challenge by focusing on the activities of the two leading authors of such techniques — Russia and China. The authors conduct a detailed assessment of available evidence of Russian and Chinese social manipulation efforts, the doctrines and strategies behind such efforts, and evidence of their potential effectiveness. RAND analysts reviewed English-, Russian-, and Chinese-language sources; examined national security strategies and policies and military doctrines; surveyed existing public-source evidence of Russian and Chinese activities; and assessed multiple categories of evidence of effectiveness of Russian activities in Europe, including public opinion data, evidence on the trends in support of political parties and movements sympathetic to Russia, and data from national defense policies. The authors find a growing commitment to tools of social manipulation by leading U.S. competitors. The findings in this report are sufficient to suggest that the U.S. government should take several immediate steps, including developing a more formal and concrete framework for understanding the issue and funding additional research to understand the scope of the challenge. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 302 pages].

Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Content

Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Content.  Congressional Research Service.  Valerie C. Brannon. March 27, 2019

As the Supreme Court has recognized, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become important venues for users to exercise free speech rights protected under the First Amendment. Commentators and legislators, however, have questioned whether these social media platforms are living up to their reputation as digital public forums. Some have expressed concern that these sites are not doing enough to counter violent or false speech. At the same time, many argue that the platforms are unfairly banning and restricting access to potentially valuable speech.

[PDF format, 46 pages].

Bots in the Twittersphere

Bots in the Twittersphere: An estimated two-thirds of tweeted links to popular websites are posted by automated accounts – not human beings. Pew Research Center.  Stefan Wojcik et al. April 9, 2018

 The role of so-called social media “bots” – automated accounts capable of posting content or interacting with other users with no direct human involvement – has been the subject of much scrutiny and attention in recent years. These accounts can play a valuable part in the social media ecosystem by answering questions about a variety of topics in real time or providing automated updates about news stories or events. At the same time, they can also be used to attempt to alter perceptions of political discourse on social media, spread misinformation, or manipulate online rating and review systems. As social media has attained an increasingly prominent position in the overall news and information environment, bots have been swept up in the broader debate over Americans’ changing news habits, the tenor of online discourse and the prevalence of “fake news” online. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 30 pages].