We begin today with The Washington Post’s Naomi Nix, Cat Zakrzewski, and Joseph Menn—and their investigative reporting about the GOP’s escalating war against misinformation research.
Academics and government scientists say the campaign also is successfully throttling the years-long effort to study online falsehoods, which grew after Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election caught both social media sites and politicians unaware.
Interviews with more than two dozen professors, government officials, physicians, nonprofits and research funders, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their internal deliberations freely, describe an escalating campaign emerging as online propaganda is rising.
Social media platforms have pulled back on moderating content even as evidence mounts that Russia and China have intensified covert influence campaigns; next week, the disinformation watchdog NewsGuard will release a study that found 12 major media accounts from Russia, China and Iran saw the number of likes and reposts on X nearly double after Musk removed labels calling them government-affiliated. Advances in generative artificial intelligence have opened the door to potentialwidespread voter manipulation. Meanwhile, public health officials are grappling with medical misinformation, as the United States heads into the fall and winter virus season.
Julia Angwin of The New York Times underscores that artificial intelligence is about to make the internet even worse.
Authors are suing A.I. outfits, alleging that their books are included in the sites’ training data. OpenAI has argued, in a separate proceeding, that the use of copyrighted data for training A.I. systems is legal under the “fair use” provision of copyright law.
While creators of quality content are contesting how their work is being used, dubious A.I.-generated content is stampeding into the public sphere. NewsGuard has identified 475 A.I.-generated news and information websites in 14 languages. A.I.-generated music is flooding streaming websites and generating A.I. royalties for scammers. A.I.-generated books — including a mushroom foraging guide that could lead to mistakes in identifying highly poisonous fungi — are so prevalent on Amazon that the company is asking authors who self-publish on its Kindle platform to also declare if they are using A.I.
This is a classic case of tragedy of the commons, where a common resource is harmed by the profit interests of individuals. The traditional example of this is a public field that cattle can graze upon. Without any limits, individual cattle owners have an incentive to overgraze the land, destroying its value to everybody.
We have commons on the internet, too. Despite all of its toxic corners, it is still full of vibrant portions that serve the public good — places like Wikipedia and Reddit forums, where volunteers often share knowledge in good faith and work hard to keep bad actors at bay.
Paul Krugman of The New York Times looks at the facile assumption that manufacturing jobs are “good-paying” jobs.
But why should creating more manufacturing jobs be a policy goal? A large part of the answer is the widespread perception that manufacturing jobs are good jobs — jobs that pay well and come with good benefits.
Yet that isn’t necessarily the case. Manufacturing jobs aren’t inherently better than jobs in other sectors. True, there was a long period — basically from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan — when manufacturing jobs were, in fact, good jobs. Nostalgia for this period is part of the reason Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” got traction with blue-collar voters. But those relatively high wages in manufacturing didn’t just happen: They were negotiated by unions, which were much more powerful in manufacturing than in the rest of the economy. When the power of the unions went away, so did the manufacturing wage premium.
So one way to think about the autoworkers’ strike is that it’s an attempt to make manufacturing good again.
Let’s start with the history. We don’t have all the data we’d like for long-run comparisons — in particular, we don’t have good data outside of manufacturing before the 1960s. But there’s little reason to believe that manufacturing jobs were particularly good jobs before the New Deal.
Kate Sosin of The 19th News reports on a survey that gave the United States a “C” when it came to LGBTQ+ human rights. Given that 2020 was the year being surveyed, those scores will get worse.
Uruguay, Luxembourg, Brazil, Norway, Colombia, Malta and Chile are the countries that best uphold the human rights of their LGBTQ+ citizens, according to a report released last week.
Conspicuously off that list? The United States, which scored a C or “persecuting” grade when it comes to LGBTQ+ human rights on the Franklin & Marshall Global Barometers Report. The annual study, conducted by a partnership led by Franklin & Marshall College, delves into a country’s policies and as well as climate. It gave more than half of the world — 62 percent — an F.
The report ranked the United States 31 out of 136 countries, based on the lived realities of more than 167,000 queer people surveyed worldwide, trailing behind France, Vietnam and Hong Kong. But the United States is also headed toward a failing grade, said Susan Dicklitch-Nelson, professor of government at Franklin & Marshall College and the study’s founder.
This latest report looks at data from 2020. Since then, hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills have flooded and passed state legislatures, most of them targeting transgender youth. In 2023, U.S. statehouses saw more than 700 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced, and lawmakers passed more than 70 of them.
Hamza Karcic of Middle East Eye asks and then attempts to answer an interesting question: Do “European values” even exist?
When I was studying for my master's degree in international relations and European studies 17 years ago, the mantra of "European values" was pervasive.
I remember professors and students unquestioningly playing up the impact of these values not only in the European Union but beyond. The process of EU expansion was frequently presented as an export of European values and standards to once-socialist countries in transition.
While many of today's EU members have made progress in upholding democratic standards, the same cannot be said of their situation at the time of joining the club. In fact, when dealing with the Western Balkans today, the EU expects potential members to have adopted values and standards that were far from met in the earlier EU enlargement processes. [...]
To be fair, a set of values and standards does exist in the EU. Perhaps in no other region as in Western Europe are freedom and the rule of law respected. Combined with the prospect of economic well-being, it is no coincidence that countless migrants are trying to make their way to Western Europe in search of a better life. The European Dream has become the new iteration of the American Dream.
Finally today, The Grammarian writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer about the inclusion of “jawn”—considered “a Philly word”—in an online dictionary.
Earlier this month the online dictionary announced it was adding the classic Phillyism and all-purpose noun to its virtual pages: “something or someone for which the speaker does not know or does not need a specific name.” Many viewed this as victory or validation … or at least with excitement for Philadelphia getting widespread press for something not overtly negative.
But everyone should calm down for one clear reason: Dictionary.com isn’t a real dictionary.
Going to Dictionary.com for definitions is like going to Olive Garden for an authentic Italian experience. You’ll find something that approximates the real deal, but the natives are probably laughing at you.
And you might feel a little ill afterward.
Way back in 2019, I described in these pages how jawn had already jumped the shark. At the time, it was appearing everywhere from Christmas “Jawnaments” to ads for a boutique Fishtown hotel. I argued the word was finished not because of its ubiquity, but because it was being used inorganically — as a way to sell products rather than as a natural way of speaking. Such abuse tends to fetishize those regionalisms that make our vernacular distinct and beautiful.
Everyone have the best possible day!