EUSSET – The European Society for Socially Embedded Technologies – expresses its full support and solidarity with the academic research carried out by Associate Professor Kate Starbird and her colleagues studying disinformation and misinformation at the Center for an Informed Public of the University of Washington, USA. This research is peer-reviewed and systematic, and has undergone rigorous reviewing and vetted by the international scientific community. It is essential for the advancement of knowledge in the field of disinformation. Academic freedom and respect for the academic peer review process are essential for the advancement of knowledge in the field of disinformation and other areas. Any political involvement/pressure in these processes are strongly condemned by EUSSET.
We are dismayed by the recent accusations against Kate Starbird from Republican representatives in the U.S. Congress of “colluding with government officials to suppress conservative speech” (Nix and Menn, 2023). These threats and demands for the collection of her documents are attacks on academic freedom. Research must be free and independent, without political or ideological interference, as recommended by UNESCO (2019): “scientific researchers respect public accountability and carry out their work in a humanely, scientifically, socially and ecologically responsible manner, while at the same time they enjoy the degree of autonomy and intellectual and academic freedom appropriate to their task and indispensable to the advancement of science and technology”.
EUSSET defends freedom of research and freedom of expression. We oppose any attempt to censor, restrict, or intimidate academic research. Critique of scientific work is an integral part of science but of course must itself be submitted to scholarly forums and subjected to rigorous evaluation. Attempts to abuse positions of power to curtail the autonomy of science are reprehensible.
EUSSET wholeheartedly supports Kate Starbird and her colleagues and encourages them to continue her important work on misinformation and disinformation despite the obstacles encountered. Studying misinformation and disinformation is indeed identified as a priority both in the European Union (European Commission, 2023) and the United States of America (United States Department of State, 2023).
“Disarming Disinformation.” n.d. United States Department of State (blog). Accessed June 18, 2023. https://www.state.gov/disarming-disinformation/.
“Funded Projects in the Fight against Disinformation.” n.d. Accessed June 18, 2023. https://commission.europa.eu/strategy-and-policy/coronavirus-response/fighting-disinformation/funded-projects-fight-against-disinformation_en.
Nix, Naomi, et Joseph Menn. 2023. ‘These Academics Studied Falsehoods Spread by Trump. Now the GOP Wants Answers.’ Washington Post, 6 June 2023. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2023/06/06/disinformation-researchers-congress-jim-jordan/.
UNESCO. 2019. ‘Focused Implementation: The 10 Key Areas of the UNESCO Recommendation on the Status of Scientific Researchers (2017)’. 2019. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000369170.