Building alliances against surveillance, official secrecy and censorship.
In the last decade data leaks have vastly improved our understanding of everything from the war in Iraq to the machinery of domestic surveillance. But the authorities are striking back. In the UK and US, a wave of surveillance legislation threatens the very existence of investigative journalism, chilling sources and whistle-blowers and making journalists indistinguishable from spies. Internationally the weaponisation of journalism and leaks, together with a thick new fog of electronic propaganda, makes a confrontation between superpowers look increasingly likely. As we inch our way into electronic totalitarianism, we ask where the conspiracies really lie – and who’s conspiring against who.
Curated by the Centre for Investigative Journalism, the third international Logan Symposium brings together a unique global community of engaged investigative journalists, hackers, whistleblowers, artists and experts to London to illuminate the prospects for truth, freedom and democracy – and where we should go from here. Taking issue with sloganeering about “fake news” and “post-truth”, we tackle the conspiracies which thrive on fact-free fringe media and why in our new media age people are prone to joining up the dots in irrational ways. But in an era of dwindling print and TV budgets for real investigation, we’re also asking tough questions about the propaganda which finds its way into our mainstream media diet too. Is the blunt instrument of law and armies of “independent fact-checkers” now being hired by big tech companies going to help? Or is the increasing overpopulation of factoids, and think tanks and activist groups fact-checking their enemies part of the problem? Have we become slaves to the algorithms of information monopolies whose databases are working to predict our every move? Conspiracy theories are more widespread than ever, but is the allegation of conspiracy also being used to silence legitimate arguments, often coupled with the rise of a new McCarthyism which sees the hand of Russia everywhere?
Conspiracy is about the growing machinery of surveillance and censorship and what might be our response to it. New anti-terror laws gift governments with unprecedented powers to spy on the electronic data of their citizens. Should we put our faith in radical transparency and sophisticated electronic techniques with which to evade surveillance, or instead resort to being more careful about what we say? Then there’s official propaganda and subterfuge. Since World War I, the drumbeat to global war has been stoked by modern media. From paid Russian Trolls toiling to Western-funded “media activists” in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, what are the chances for real freedom and democracy when the new media machinery becomes a powerful new weapon of war? The proposed new Espionage Act in the UK, and the renewed threat of prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act in the US, deliberately blurs the distinction between information-seeking investigative journalists and spies from a hostile state. Investigative journalists could be prosecuted for “conspiring” with a source to publish classified information. Are some journalists really spies, and how do we best defend ourselves against the allegation that we are?
Confronted with the growing machinery of state power, Conspiracy presents the tools, tactics and strategies which are reinventing investigative journalism. Faced with the conspiracies on all sides, a unique global network of investigators and doers, rich in practical advice and personal stories, tries to steer a more enlightened path through the confusion and contradictions of our time.