The news: In a 90-minute virtual US Congressional hearing hosted by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, representatives took stock of the state of misinformation in America and sought advice from some of the leading experts in the field. What they heard were urgent, alarming warnings about the state of truth, political fragmentation and spread of conspiracy theories, specifically QAnon.
Later that day during a televised town hall meeting, President Trump said he knew “nothing” about QAnon, before saying that he agreed with one of its central beliefs.
Who was there: The committee, headed by Democrat Adam Schiff, heard from four disinformation experts: Joan Donovan (a regular contributor to Technology Review), Nina Jankowicz, Cindy Otis, and Melanie Smith. They discussed the proliferation of malign actors and misinformation around the election campaign, noting that they were the result of largely domestic forces. Otis remarked that they “embrace and deploy tactics that sound much more like foreign influence operations than the tactics of good digital campaigning”.
Who wasn’t: No Republicans attended the hearing. In fact, Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee have been boycotting almost all meetings for months. Jankowicz urged the depoliticization of online disinformation, saying “disinformation is a threat to democracy no matter what political party it benefits.” Several witnesses and Chairman Schiff pointed out that President Trump regularly creates, shares and amplifies disinformation.