Lunch Talk: Disinformation Campaigns in Response to Documentation of War Crimes and Human Rights Abuse


Monday, February 5, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


RUBENSTEIN R-414B, Harvard Kennedy School, 79 JFK Street

Join the Carr Center and Senior Fellow Steven Livingston for a lunch talk on disinformation campaigns and human rights documentation. 

stevenlWhile much of the transnational advocacy literature emphasizes compliance and commitment mechanisms (boomerang and spiral models) of formerly abusive or norms noncompliant states, less attention has been given to the nature of state resistance to compliance demands made by transnational advocacy networks. In other words, what does continued noncompliance look like? When in immediate reach, civil society groups, news media, public intellectuals, law advocates and independent judicial bodies are all suppressed, or suppressed even more severly. This trend has been referred to as the raise of illiberal regimes. Examples include India, Russia, Poland, and Hungary.

Where the sources of accusation of war crimes and abuse are out of reach of repressive state agencies, pertetrators rely on disinformation campaigns that aim to undermine the credibility of the accusing groups, organizations, and even individuals, or they flood the information environment with contradictory, fabricated, and false assertions. Disinformation campaigns are intended to obfuscate and confuse, leading to a sense of false ambiguity to what are otherwise documented and verifiable events. In short, the talk explores the range of noncompliant responses offered by states accused of human rights abuses and war crimes.

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 The George Washington University. Currently, he is also a Visiting Scholar at the Brookings Institution in governance studies. He served as the director of the Political Communication Program when it was a degree-granting entity within SMPA (1996-2002; 2004-2006). In 2004, he served as acting director of the School of Media and Public Affairs, a position held until August 2006. He also founded the Public Diplomacy Institute (PDI) at GWU in 2000 and served as the chairman of the Board of Directors until 2008. PDI is now called the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication. Livingston's research and teaching focus on media/information technology, national security and global politics. He is particularly interested in the role of information technologies and media on governance, development, accountability, and human security.