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Full Version: House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence - Conspiracy Theories Online
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On Thursday, October 15, 2020 at 1:30 pm ET, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) will convene a virtual unclassified hearing entitled, “Misinformation, Conspiracy Theories, and ‘Infodemics’: Stopping the Spread Online.”

Conspiracy theories and misinformation narratives that prey on individuals’ fears and uncertainties continue to mar the online landscape. Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, an economy in turmoil, and a tumultuous presidential campaign, there is ample terrain for malicious actors at home or malign foreign operatives and governments abroad to exploit such tensions by stoking chaos and dangerous, even life-threatening, untruths. Recent trends in the spread and reach of misleading or unfounded claims online have the unsettling potential to come to a head after Election Day – particularly if the certified outcome is unknown or contested in the ensuing days and weeks.

Although the seeds for many conspiracies and misinformation narratives – ranging from baseless QAnon posts, to coronavirus skepticism and denialism, to falsehoods about mail-in ballots – are often homegrown and amplified by American voices, the propaganda and covert influence machines of foreign adversaries have nonetheless repeated and amplified them in the service of strategic interests.

In the hearing, the Committee will examine:

• the intersection of and divergences between different online conspiracy and misinformation narratives;
• the role of social media platforms in the proliferation and deceleration of such content;
• how foreign actors are taking advantage of misinformation circulating U.S. online communities;
• steps that the US government and private sector need to take in response; and
• the implications for our social and political discourse beyond Election Day 2020.

Dr. Joan Donovan, Research Director, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
Ms. Nina Jankowicz, Disinformation Fellow, The Wilson Center
Ms. Cindy Otis, Vice President, Alethea Group
Ms. Melanie Smith, Head of Analysis, Graphika Inc.
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