ABSTRACT: We examine how – over a period of eleven months – Italian QAnon supporters designed and maintained a distributed, multi-layered “infrastructure of disinformation” that spans multiple social media platforms, messaging apps, online forums, alternative media channels, as well as websites, databases, and content aggregators. Examining disinformation from an infrastructural lens reveals how QAnon disinformation operations extend well-beyond the use of social media and the construction of false narratives. While QAnon conspiracy theories continue to evolve and adapt, the overarching (dis)information infrastructure through which “epistemic evidence” is constructed and constantly updated is rather stable and has increased in size and complexity over time. We also characterize how such infrastructure differs from information infrastructures designed and adopted in the context of scientific and bureaucratic work. Finally, we show that deplatforming is a time-sensitive effort. The longer platforms wait to intervene, the harder it is to eradicate (dis)information infrastructures as they develop new layers, get distributed across the Internet, and can rely on a critical mass of loyal followers.
Irene Pasquetto is a scholar in the field of information and communication science. She holds a position as Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School of Information where she teaches “Ethics of Information Technologies” and “Digital Curation.” Her most recent research work focuses on issues of science mis- and disinformation, open science practices, and public understanding and use/misuse of science products and infrastructures. From 2018 to 2020, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, at the Harvard Kennedy School. At the Kennedy School, Irene co-founded and chief-edited the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review. Irene earned a Ph.D. in Information Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she also worked as a research assistant at the UCLA Center for Knowledge Infrastructures (CKI) and the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics. Previously, Irene earned a master’s and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Verona (Italy).
This event is part of the Speaker Series on Misinformation, co-sponsored by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School and the NULab at Northeastern University.