Arena

Arena

Arena analyses the root cause of distorted information, polarisation and hate speech, and runs projects designed to fight back against them.

Based at the Institute for Global Affairs (IGA) within the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Arena is the first programme dedicated solely to the issue of disinformation and 21st century propaganda.

Arena aims to respond to a real need: the information revolution of the past decade has made it far easier to transmit disinformation than ever before.

The “age of information” has mutated into the “age of disinformation”. The proliferation of false stories and the division of citizens into mutually exclusive echo chambers are undermining democracy.  Authoritarian rulers have learnt to entrench their power by flooding societies with disinformation. Aggressive states and terrorist groups use mass media falsifications, hate videos and social media ‘trolls’ to destabilize other countries and communities. Across the world the internet and global media have empowered conspiracy theorists and violent extremist groups to set the social agenda.

Arena analyses the root cause of distorted information, polarisation and hate speech, and runs projects designed to fight back against them. Our pilot projects in 2017 will bring together old and new media, fact-checkers and computer scientists to better understand and to combat the problem of online polarisation.

Who we are

Arena’s seeks to promote a fact-based discourse that enhances security, enables democracy, and entrenches trust. We are a small programme that runs projects with partners across the world.

Arena’s directors are well experienced in this field. From 2014-2017, they ran a research project at the Legatum Institute, called ‘Beyond Propaganda’, which analysed 21st century propaganda, sought solutions, and set the agenda on this issue. Arena’s team have given evidence to the US Congress and UK Parliament, advised the British, Dutch, Latvian and US governments on counter-propaganda strategy, and held numerous seminars at a wide range of organisations, including NATO, Lviv University, Harvard University, and the German Foreign Service. Ideas and insights borne directly from this research project have been quoted by senior officials, such as the US Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, and have helped shape the programmes of the British Foreign Office, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the European Endowment for Democracy, among others. 

Our people

Anne-Applebaum

Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum, is a journalist and prize-winning historian with a particular expertise in the history of communism and the experience of post-communist “democratization” in the Soviet Union and central Europe. She was recently appointed Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics Institute of Global Affairs.

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Contact: 

Alistair Shawcross, a.j.shawcross@lse.ac.uk

Peter-Pomerantsev

Peter Pomerantsev

Peter Pomerantsev is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics, an author and TV producer. He specialises on propaganda and media development, and has testified on the challenges of information war to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the UK Parliament Defense Select Committee.

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Contact: 

Alistair Shawcross, a.j.shawcross@lse.ac.uk

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Alistair Shawcross

Alistair Shawcross is a Programme Manager at Arena. He is responsible for the smooth running of Arena’s projects, communicating Arena’s work and identifying new project opportunities. He is the author of the report Facts We Can Believe In: How to Make Fact-Checking Better and a co-author of a forthcoming report on the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan. He has also published book reviews with the International Journal of World Peace.  Alistair has an MSc in Middle East Politics (Distinction) from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and a BA in History from University of Cambridge.

Contact: a.j.shawcross@lse.ac.uk

What we do

Arena is very much a ‘do’-tank, dedicated to finding the practical tools, best practices and methodologies to defeat disinformation. Arena will take advantage of its unique network of academics, opinion-makers and policy-makers interested in this field– from heads of State, the military, and the media, all the way to bedroom activists, academics, computer scientists and NGOs – to move into responsive action.

Arena works with partners across the world to carry out relevant projects and disseminate results. Once a specific tool has been developed, such as new internet technology that helps activists understand when material online is planted or organic, Arena will distribute it to a large group of stakeholders.

Find out further information about our projects.

News

ARENA's Directors, together with Professor Nicholas Cull of USC Annenberg and Annenberg Visiting Fellow Vassily Gatov, co-authored a 70-page study for Google subsidiary Jigsaw. The study took a closer look at eleven examples of Cold War responses to Soviet disinformation and influence campaigns, and drew lessons for today. An executive summary is available here. The full report is available on request


 

Examining Russian Efforts to Impact the German Federal Elections 2017

Press Release September 2017 – Initial Analysis of Influence Operations in German Elections

LONDON - Since June 2017, the ISD (Institute for Strategic Dialogue) and the Arena Project at the Institute of Global Affairs, LSE, have monitored foreign attempts to influence the German elections. Our preliminary research findings show that a network of pro-Russian and international far-right groups actively spread messages and memes designed to undermine mainstream parties and promote the AfD. Their activity grew especially pronounced in the final weeks of the campaign. We will be publishing a full report on social media and the German elections within the coming weeks, but in the meantime, click the link above for some of our initial conclusions.


 

Part of Arena’s mission is to spark a wider conversation about the issues that concern us. Over the past few months, the Arena staff have been spoken at conferences and events on disinformation, propaganda and so-called “fake news”.

Anne Applebaum, Co-Director of Arena and Professor of Practice at LSE testified on this issue at the European parliament, recently took part in a presentation for the board of the National Endowment for Democracy and met with a range of government and tech industry leaders. She gave a talk on these issues at the Oslo Freedom Forum. You can see a video of that speech.

Peter Pomerantsev, Co-Director of Arena and Visiting Senior Fellow at the LSE put forward the idea of the "post-modern politician" in an animated opinion piece for BBC Newsnight. In June, he was hosted in conversation with Ivan Krastev, discussing "Truth in Times of War" at the IWM in Vienna. In July, Peter spoke at Almedelan Week, one of the most important forums for Swedish politics, on the topic of audience trust. A recording of that conversation with Craig Silverman is available

Alistair Shawcross, Programmes Manager at Arena, took part in a panel on “fake news” in Copenhagen. In May, Alistair attended the Point conference in Sarajevo where he spoke on "fake news" and propaganda. Most recently, Alistair attended the fourth annual meeting of fact-checkers in Madrid.

Arena's research featured in the media

LSE Arena have worked together with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue to monitor online influence in the German elections. Our research has been published extensively in German media. See below for a selection.

Monitoring the German Elections

LSE Arena have worked together with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue to monitor online influence in the German elections. Our research has been published extensively in German media. Arena Directors Peter Pomerantsev and Anne Applebaum gave an overview of our analysis in an exclusive essay for Die Welt, comparing the situation with alienated social media ‘echo chambers’ in Germany to the US.

A unique investigation together with Buzzfeed unearthed a bot-net operating out of the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod, whose managers confirmed they were supporting the German right-nationalist AFD Party free of charge.

This investigation has been turned into a multimedia ‘Ultimate Guide to Bust Fake Tweeters’, useful for any journalists exploring hidden influencers. The guide is featured in English on fact-checking site Poynter.org, and broadcaster ZDF in German.

Arena and ISD also worked together with Der Spiegel Magazine to look at how the international alt-right tried to influence the election.

Other pieces included an in-depth profile of a prolific ‘internet warrior' and explored the political dynamics among the 3-4 million Russian-Germans.

Read a summary of our findings.

Events

Past events

Red Famine US Cover

Red Famine: Stalin's war on Ukraine, and why it still matters

In 1932-33, nearly four million Ukrainians died of starvation, having been deliberately deprived of food. Professor in practice Anne Applebaum explored how and why this happened, and explained its lasting importance.

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RT @LSESEAC: Are you an LSE PhD student with a keen interest in Singapore? There are spaces available for a PhD seminar with Prof Beng Hua…

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Contact us

Telephone

020 7405 7686

Email

General Inquiries and Events: iga@lse.ac.uk

Address

LSE Arena, Institute of Global Affairs, Tower 3, 9th floor, Clement's Inn, London School of Economics and Political Science, WC2A 2AZ

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