Books / Publications

Lie Machines

Artificially intelligent “bot” accounts bolster or berate politicians on Twitter. Conspiracy theorists publish junk news sites to promote their bunk. Campaigners create fake dating profiles to attract young voters. In Lie Machines: How to Save Democracy from Troll Armies, Deceitful Robots, Junk News Operations, and Political Operatives (May 19, 2020 publication date), author Philip N. Howard delves into and exposes the technologies that jeopardize, in turn, our attention, our discourse, and our democracies.

Howard defines a lie machine as “a system of people and technologies that distribute false messages in the service of a political agenda.” Harnessing information garnered from polling data, internet postings, and interviews with journalists, bot writers, and political consultants, Howard offers a way to identify and derail these “lie machines.”

Full of riveting behind‑the‑scenes stories from the world’s biggest and most damagingly successful misinformation initiatives—including those used in Brexit and the U.S. presidential election—Howard not only shows how these campaigns have evolved from older propaganda operations but also gives new insight into why they are so effective at swaying public opinion.

“Phil Howard has spent quality time under the hood of the modern lie machine – and it shows. In this detailed but eminently readable tour of the modern information environment, he rolls up his sleeves to explain the machine’s cogs, gears, and what makes it hum, from Russia to Brazil and beyond.  For those who have long relied on the dictum “truth will out,” Howard’s insights into the complex interplay between data and disinformation should serve as a sobering corrective. But he also lights the way to a saner tomorrow, offering up civic defense tips, ideas for collective action, and other innovative ways to “future-proof” democracy against the machines we have created.”

Shanthi Kalathil, National Endowment for Democracy

“Lie Machines is an important account of the corruption of online information flows, offering up a bounty of lively, action‑oriented reflections on the vulnerabilities inherent in today’s digital communications architecture.”

Jonathan Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International Law and Professor of Computer Science, Harvard University  

Lie Machines presents Howard’s cutting‑edge research on disinformation and computational propaganda in a vivid, compelling manner. The book is a tour de force analysis of grave threats to democracy, and how to defuse them.”

Frank Pasquale, author of The Black Box Society  

Lie Machines takes on one of the great challenges of the digital age. Refusing to wallow in the dystopia of it all, Howard produces a must‑read for the moment and a blueprint for the future.”

David Kaye, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

“A compelling read. Howard relates a complex subject in simple and convincing terms, producing a prescient and socially significant work.”

Zizi Papacharissi, author of A Private Sphere: Democracy in a Digital Age
29 June 2020: UK Book Launch
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