The Lawfare Podcast
What Impact did Facebook Have on the 2020 Elections?
How much influence do social media platforms have on American politics and society? It’s a tough question for researchers to answer—not just because it’s so big, but also because platforms rarely if ever provide all the data that would be needed to address the problem.
A new batch of papers released in the journals Science and Nature marks the latest attempt to tackle this question, with access to data provided by Facebook’s parent company Meta. The 2020 Facebook & Instagram Research Election Study, a partnership between Meta researchers and outside academics, studied the platforms’ impact on the 2020 election—and uncovered some nuanced findings, suggesting that these impacts might be less than you’d expect.
Today on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the information ecosystem, Lawfare Senior Editors Alan Rozenshtein and Quinta Jurecic are joined by the project’s co-leaders, Talia Stroud of the University of Texas at Austin and Joshua A. Tucker of NYU. They discussed their findings, what it was like to work with Meta, and whether or not this is a model for independent academic research on platforms going forward.
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A Conversation on Domestic Intelligence with Kenneth Wainstein01:16:33On September 19, Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, Kenneth Wainstein, gave a speech at the Brookings Institution on the current threat environment and the role of the Department of Homeland Security's Intelligence and Analysis Office (I&A) in confronting it. Following the speech, Lawfare Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Wittes and Wainstein sat down for a Q&A, both between them and with the live audience at Falk Auditorium at the Brookings Institution. It's a wide-ranging conversation about the lessons of 9/11, how we seem to have forgotten them in certain respects, current congressional efforts to rein in I&A’s intelligence-gathering activities domestically, and the post-Jan. 6 need for those authorities.
Human Rights Abuses in Saudi Arabia with Joey Shea27:43On August 21, the Human Rights Watch released a report detailing systematic abuses of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers at the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border. Researchers interviewed dozens of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers and found that Saudi border guards had used explosive weapons on them and shot migrants at close range. Lawfare’s Associate Editor of Communications Anna Hickey sat down with Joey Shea, a researcher in the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch who investigates human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They discussed the Human Rights Watch recent report, how the international community has responded so far, and the human rights record of Prince Mohammed bin Salman since he ascended the throne in 2015.
An Update on Ukraine48:22For the past several months, Ukraine has been engaged in a grinding counteroffensive aimed at retaking lost territory from Russian invaders. Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky joined President Biden for the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York to make the case for continued support of Ukraine's efforts—a message they then repeated to members of Congress concerning whether to move forward a much-needed aid package.To discuss the state of the Ukraine offensive and where it sits in the broader political context, Lawfare Senior Editor Scott R. Anderson sat down with two leading experts: Eric Ciaramella and Dara Massicot, both of whom are senior fellows in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. They discussed the state of the counteroffensive, how Zelensky's pitches in New York and D.C. went, and where the conflict seems likely to head in this next phase.
Rational Security: The “Sara-FIN” Edition01:05:11This week on Rational Security, Quinta and Scott were joined by Lawfare colleagues Eric Ciaramella and Saraphin Dhanani, the latter for her last episode of RatSec before departing Lawfare, to break down the week’s big national security news stories, including:“UNGA UNGA Party.” President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskyy made back-to-back addresses to the U.N. General Assembly, which is gathered in New York for its annual summit this week. What should we make of their statements? Might this be a turning point for the conflict—and, if so, in which direction?“Et Tu, Modi?” Canada has leveled a serious allegation against the government of India: that it was directly involved in the recent assassination of a Sikh separatist leader (and Canadian citizen) on Canadian soil—something that promises to complicate U.S. efforts to bring India into the fold as a balance to China. How credible are these claims and what might they mean?“Ransomwhere?” The Biden administration has struck a deal with the government of Iran, exchanging several imprisoned Iranian nationals and $6 billion in frozen oil revenue for five U.S. nationals held by Iran and their spouses. Is this negotiating with terrorists, a new opening for Iran negotiations, or something else entirely?For object lessons, Quinta recommended Tyler Austin Harper’s penetrating review of Richard Hanania’s “The Origins of Woke.” Eric also went the critic’s route and passed along Gary Shteyngart’s withering review of Walter Isaacson’s new Elon Musk biography. Scott urged anyone with a junior mycologist at home to run out and find Elise Gravel’s charming “The Mushroom Fan Club.” And Saraphin gave a double-headed finale: BBC’s controversial documentary “India: The Modi Question,” which has been banned in India; and David Brooks’ recent article, “How America Got Mean.”
Trump’s Trials and Tribulations: Removal, Gag Orders, and Disqualification, Oh My57:17This past Thursday, Lawfare Senior Editor Scott R. Anderson hosted “Trump’s Trials and Tribulations,” Lawfare’s weekly live video chat about developments in the many ongoing trials circulating around former President Trump. He was joined by Lawfare’s two leading court reporters, Senior Editor Roger Parloff and Legal Fellow Anna Bower, both of whom have been closely following developments in courthouses around the country, both from afar and sometimes up close and personal. They talked about removal proceedings in Georgia, a proposed gag order of the former president in Washington, D.C., and new news about how former President Trump allegedly mishandled classified information in Florida, as well as the coming wave of litigation around the country seeking to disqualify Trump from the presidency under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.This is a live conversation that happens online every Thursday at 4:00pm Eastern Time. If you would like to come join and ask a question, be sure to visit Lawfare’s Patreon account and become a Material Supporter.
Lawfare Archive: An NSI Conversation on U.S.-China Policy50:32From May 25, 2019: Our friends from the National Security Institute at George Mason University stopped by earlier this week to discuss U.S.-China relations. Lester Munson, Jodi Herman, Jamil Jaffer, and Dana Stroul, former Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffers who collaborated and sometimes competed with one another on the Committee, had a lively discussion about Huawei, cyber and tech security, the South China sea, and Uighur internment.
How States Think01:10:51It is commonplace for American leaders to describe their fiercest foreign adversaries as irrational, crazy, delusional, or illogical. In their new book, “How States Think: The Rationality of Foreign Policy,” political scientists John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Sebastian Rosato of the University of Notre Dame argue that these claims and many similar ones are often wrong because they're based on a flawed understanding of state rationality in international affairs.Jack Goldsmith questioned Mearsheimer and Rosato about why they think most states act rationally most of the time in developing grand strategy and managing crises. Among other topics, they discussed how their theory of state rationality differs from rational choice theorists and political psychologists, why understanding state rationality is important to success in international affairs, and why Mearsheimer, a harsh critic of U.S. expansion of NATO and of the U.S. choice to pursue liberal hegemony after the Cold War, nonetheless argues in this book that those decisions were rational.
Chatter: Secret Intelligence and the British Royal Family with Rory Cormac01:15:27The British royal family and UK intelligence operations have been linked since Queen Victoria's time, involving everything from personal protection to matters of international intrigue to concerns about blackmail. Professor and author Rory Cormac, who has conducted extensive research on the British intelligence services, has recently added to his corpus of writings in the field with a book about the modern royal-intelligence intersection: Crown, Cloak, and Dagger, co-authored with Richard Aldrich.David Priess and Rory discussed the difference in US and UK education about the royal family; intelligence foundations during the reign of the first Elizabeth; why it fell apart under her successor; the seeds of modern intelligence under Victoria; the involvement of UK intelligence officers in the death of Grigori Rasputin; the challenges and advances involving intelligence and Edward VII, George V, and Edward VIII; the contributions of George VI to the Allies' massive D-Day deception operations; Elizabeth II's reading of intelligence reports; Soviet spy Anthony Blunt's close relationship with the royal family; Elizabeth's role as a diplomatic "helper;" the exposures of Charles III and Prince Willliam to intelligence; why Clement Attlee was an underappreciated prime minister; and more.Among the works mentioned in this episode:The book Crown, Cloak, and Dagger by Richard J. Aldrich and Rory CormacThe book How To Stage a Coup by Rory CormacChatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.
The Tyranny of the Minority with Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt50:53Democratic backsliding, a term that American political scientists usually use to describe the process by which other countries transition to autocracy, has come home. Freedom House’s Global Freedom Index, which attempts to track the health of democracies around the world, recently demoted the United States from a score of 90 in 2015 to 83 in 2021, lower than every established democracy in Western Europe. How did American democracy fall so far behind, and more importantly, what can we do about it? Lawfare Managing Editor Tyler McBrien spoke with Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, authors of the new book, “Tyranny of the Minority: Why American Democracy Reached the Breaking Point,” to answer these questions about our ailing democracy. They discussed the diagnoses and prescriptions of this breaking point, the most damaging counter-majoritarian features of the U.S. Constitution, and why constitutional and electoral reform is so damn difficult in the U.S.—but not impossible. They also got into how the Republican Party went off the rails.