The roots of the information disorder are multiple, but Steven Livingston and Lance Bennett argue that a disproportionate amount of attention—and critique—have been directed at technology. Although social media platforms rightly share blame for the circulation of mis- and disinformation, the authors suggest that a prior and more consequential source of information disorder may be traced to sustained attacks on “authoritative institutions,” which have worked, historically, to foster a sense of shared reality and to mitigate against the threat of disinformation.
Steven Livingston is professor of media and public affairs, and international affairs with appointments in the School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) and the Elliott School of International Affairs (ESIA) at George Washington University. He is also the founding director of the Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics (IDDP). He is also affiliated faculty in the Department of Political Science and in the Space Policy Institute. Livingston’s research and teaching focus on information and communication technology, development and governance, open source investigations, and transnational advocacy, especially concerning human rights, and disinformation. His most recent publication is The Disinformation Age: Politics, Technology, and Disruptive Communication in the United States (an edited volume with W. Lance Bennett; Cambridge University Press, 2020). He has been a Research Fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School; an Erskine Canterbury Fellow at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand; a senior research fellow at the Collaborative Research Center (SFB) 700 "Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood" at the Freie Universität Berlin; a guest scholar in the Governance Studies program at the Brookings Institution; a Senior Fellow in residence at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University; a visiting professor at St. Gallen University, Switzerland; and a Visiting Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Governance and Human Rights, Cambridge University.