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Computational Propaganda in Europe, the U.S., and China

Book Chapter in Drums: Distortions, Rumours, Untruths, Misinformation, And Smears

Evolving from these religious origins, traditional forms of state-produced propaganda reached their zenith in the early 1900s. Between the First World War and the end of the Cold War, all of the major world powers used propaganda to solidify domestic allegiances and vilify enemies. However, in the public imagination, the idea of propaganda is most associated with Nazi Germany and the Communist propaganda states of Soviet Russia and Maoist China.

Academically, propaganda is understood as the technique of influencing human action by the manipulation of representations (Lasswell, 1995; Pratkanis and Aronson, 1992). It works by appealing to and manipulating emotions, bypassing rational thought to achieve the predetermined ends of its creators (Institute for Propaganda Analysis, 1995). Although this distinction is difficult to determine in practice, propaganda is often defined in opposition to persuasion, with propaganda focused only on the needs and aims of the communicator, and persuasion attempting to satisfy the needs of both the persuader and the audience (Garth and O’Donnell, 1999). Thus, while the word remains associated with propaganda states such as Nazi Germany and Maoist China, this definition highlights that propaganda can be found everywhere in modern society, from advertisements to political campaigns. The movement of politics onto the Internet has led to the rise of a new form of propaganda. This computational propaganda is propaganda created or disseminated using computational means.

Bolsover, G. and Howard, P., 2018. Computational Propaganda in Europe, the U.S., and China. In: S. Jayakumar, B. Ang and N. Vasu, ed., Drums: Distortions, Rumours, Untruths, Misinformation, And Smears. World Scientific, p.61.

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