UK media is reporting that an Edinburgh-based academic has been accused of effectively helping the Russian war effort by sharing pro-Kremlin propaganda on social media. According to a report in The Herald:
An Edinburgh-based academic at a leading university has been accused of “effectively helping the Russian war effort” after sharing pro-Kremlin propaganda on social media. Leading campaign group the Community Security Trust said questions should be asked about the standard of teaching at the University of Edinburgh, LBC has reported. Tim Hayward, professor of environmental political theory at the University of Edinburgh, retweeted a Russian representative to the United Nations describing the horrific attacks on that maternity hospital in Mariupol as “fake news”. He then wrote: “As long as we’re still able to hear two sides of the story we should continue striving to do so.” He’s also pushed articles to his followers, which number nearly 20, 000, that the US wants the war in Ukraine “to continue”, and criticised the West for failing to consider “Russia’s legitimate interests”. Dave Rich, director of policy at the Community Security Trust, told LBC: “We have seen over the years that Russia uses its propaganda as part of its war effort to cover-up what it is doing, and when British academics amplify and endorse that completely false propaganda, whether they mean to or not, effectively they are helping the Russian war effort and they are giving that message to directly to their students.“ “Academics have to be free to think, and to write, and to speak about whatever they want but the concern should be where they are getting their information and how they are evaluating it. “And is this is how they do their academic work – if everything they teach is based on conspiracy theories and lies from a dictatorship that is pursuing a war in the way that these tweets have done. “What does that say about what they are teaching in their universities and the standards that their universities are enforcing?”
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Renée DiResta, the technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, recently described what she calls “ampliganda,” a term used to describe public participation in the spread of propaganda:
In fact, we have a very old word for persuasive communication with an agenda: propaganda. That term, however, comes with historical baggage. It presumes that governments, authority figures, institutions, and mass media are forcing ideas on regular people from the top down. But more and more, the opposite is happening. Far from being merely a target, the public has become an active participant in creating and selectively amplifying narratives that shape realities. Perhaps the best word for this emergent bottom-up dynamic is one that doesn’t exist quite yet: ampliganda, the shaping of perception through amplification. It can originate from an online nobody or an onscreen celebrity. No single person or organization bears responsibility for its transmission. And it is having a profound effect on democracy and society.
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