Big, If True Webinar: Fighting a Two-Front War: Censorship and Disinformation in Southeast Asia

Big, If True Webinar: Fighting a Two-Front War: Censorship and Disinformation in Southeast Asia

July 13, 2020

Friday, July 10, 2020 – This episode of BIG, If True reflects on the hybrid battles being waged by journalists, activists, and dissidents against censorship and disinformation in Southeast Asia. The discussion traces the genesis of the recent attacks on the freedom to expression, from the rise and fall of the Anti-Fake News Act in Malaysia to the conviction of Rappler CEO and Editor Maria Ressa and former Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos over cyber libel charges — a conviction that has been widely reported as a strike against press freedom and democracy in the Philippines. In light of these extraordinary censorship measures, this webinar charts the broader efforts being made by civil society to counter the repression of free speech.

Joined by esteemed panelists, Glenda GloriaJonathan Corpus Ong and Gabrielle Lim, host Joan Donovan asks: Has the fight against disinformation been co-opted by repressive governments? What has prompted this regional trend towards illiberal legislation? How have journalists, activists and dissidents responded to the clamping down of free expression? And how can we begin to uncoil the tightly wound strands of censorship and disinformation?

Glenda Gloria is the managing editor of Rappler and one of its co-founders. She has worked for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Manila Times, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and for international news agencies. In the dying days of the Estrada administration, she co-founded the Philippines’ top investigative magazine Newsbreak, which started as a newsweekly. She has authored two groundbreaking books: “Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao,” with Marites Dañguilan-Vitug and “The Enemy Within: An Inside Story on Military Corruption,” with the late Aries Rufo and Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza. In May 2018, Glenda finished her Nieman journalism fellowship at Harvard University.

Jonathan Corpus Ong, PhD is Associate Professor of Global Digital Media in the Department of Communication, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA. He is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the journal Television and New Media. His expertise is on the social and moral consequences of media in the everyday lives of vulnerable communities, particularly in the Global South. He is the author of the public report “Architects of Networked Disinformation: Behind the Scenes of Troll Accounts and Fake News Production in the Philippines” (2018) and the book, The Poverty of Television: The Mediation of Suffering in Class-Divided Philippines (Anthem, 2015). He is co-editor of the volume, Taking the Square: Mediated Dissent and Occupations of Public Space (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016).

Gabrielle Lim is a researcher at the Technology and Social Change Research Project (TaSC) at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, as well as a fellow with Citizen Lab at the Munk School, University of Toronto. Her research focuses primarily on information controls and security, with a focus on disinformation and media manipulation. Her previous work includes Iranian disinformation, the securitization of “fake news”, and the emergence and implications of sociotechnical security.


Hosted by Joan Donovan, PhDBIG, If True is a seminar series presented by the Technology and Social Change Research Project (TaSC) at the Shorenstein Center.

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Dr. Donovan’s research specializes in Critical Internet Studies, Science and Technology Studies, and the Sociology of Social Movements. Dr. Donovan’s research and expertise has been showcased in a wide array of media outlets including NPR, Washington Post, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, ABC News, NBC News, Columbia Journalism Review, The Atlantic, Nature, and more.

The TaSC Project researches media manipulation, disinformation, political communication, and technology’s relationship to society. The research team is composed of subject matter experts, Brian Friedberg, an investigative ethnographer of online social worlds, Gabrielle Lim, a researcher of sociotechnical systems and information controls, and Rob Faris, co-author of Network Propaganda and researcher of large-scale media ecosystems. The TaSC Project aims to understand how media manipulation is a means to control public conversation, derail democracy, and disrupt society. The project conducts research, develops methods, and facilitates workshops for journalists, policy makers, technologists, and civil society organizations on how to detect, document, and debunk media manipulation campaigns. The project is creating a research platform called the Media Manipulation Case Book, which will include 100 case studies to advance our knowledge of how misinformation travels across the web and platforms.