About this Research Topic
Technological advances in communications have fundamentally transformed opportunities for states to influence and manipulate the masses. Although current controversies over reported Russian interference in elections and Cambridge Analytica have dominated academic, political, and public discourse, for example, it is also clear that most, if not all, political actors, including liberal democratic governments and corporate persons, are employing new digital techniques aimed at manipulating and deceiving publics in the interest of acquiring greater control over populations. Evidence of such efforts can be found in the post-9/11 counter-intelligence operations revealed by Edward Snowden, in the activities of Brigade 77 (Britain’s military social media warriors), in the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab, and in the work of Bellingcat. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Alibaba, WeChat, and other major digital services, and social platforms have morphed into agents of personal data collection, analysis, marketization, and dissemination. These changes to private and public communication and their associated emerging threats raise critically important questions regarding the health and viability of common spaces and other public spheres in societies across the world.
In May 2018, Facebook assumed an additional role as an intelligence agent and announced its participation on the Atlantic Council intent to provide “real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world.” In the same month, Google shed its virtuous slogan, “Don’t be evil,” shortly before it announced its withdraw from a joint venture with the Pentagon to develop AI for new weapons and surveillance systems. In October of 2018, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos criticized Google’s move even while striving to cement a monopoly on the digital marketplace in pursuit of the Pentagon’s JEDI Cloud contract and while peddling its Orwellian listening devices (Echo and Alexa) to consumers. As public and private speech become increasingly surveilled and censored by algorithms and monitored by sensors and RFID chips embedded in structures both organic and material, the sheer pervasiveness of these technologies serves to restrict open discourse, and to eradicate privacy and human autonomy. Submissions to this section of the journal might consider some of the following possible approaches:
• how strategies in manipulation and control are enacted through censorship, fabrication, intimidation, smearing, and/or coercion.
• how various and evolving communication technologies provide newer and more sophisticated tactics of manipulation.
• how surveillance and manipulation are intertwined.
• how institutions and organizations fund these activities.
• how rules of law and ethics are interpreted in societies employing digital manipulation
• how publics understand and contend with these manipulations and impositions
Keywords: Digital media, ideology, manipulation, propaganda, cultural conditioning
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.