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Photo by Andrew Stutesman on Unsplash

A recent report by Freedom House titled “Democracy Under Lockdown: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Global Struggle for Freedom” found that the conditions for democracy and human rights have deteriorated further in 80 countries throughout the world. The opening paragraph of the report states, “Governments have responded by engaging in abuses of power, silencing their critics, and weakening or shuttering important institutions, often undermining the very systems of accountability needed to protect public health.”

Before we go any further, let us make one thing clear, a mask mandate does not constitute an infringement on democratic freedoms or an abuse of power. …

Villas, grand jury investigations, and free money

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Photo by Didier Weemaels on Unsplash

The Covid-19 pandemic has made everything more difficult. Small mom-and-pop shops and restaurants have been hit the hardest, and though the US Senate is still sitting on a relief package to help the millions of Americans who lost their jobs, there is a program to ease the financial strain on businesses created by the pandemic. But small businesses were far from the only ones receiving the aid packages.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was designed by the United States government to help small businesses stay afloat and to pay their employees during the long months of Covid-19. The “size standard” as deemed by the US Small Business Administration (SBA) varies on what constitutes a small business but is usually determined by a dollar amount or the number of employees a company has. For instance, most agricultural businesses with an annual income under $1 million can apply for a small business loan. For the oil and gas industry, the biggest determining factor is employee size, with 1,000 employees being the average benchmark. …

Ask Tucker Carlson’s lawyers

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Credit: Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

Andy Borowitz’s opening paragraph of his article for The New Yorker reads, “In what the network described as ‘the bombshell of the century,’ Fox News Channel has obtained a damning video of President-elect Joe Biden talking to scientists.”

Two paragraphs later, Borowitz quotes Tucker Carlson, “If authentic, this video could be grounds for Biden’s impeachment…Talking to scientists, most legal scholars would agree, is a high crime under the United States Constitution.”

You read those quotes and have no doubt in your mind that they were attributed to Fox News and Tucker Carlson, but you’ve been fooled. Carlson never said those things — we think. …

I have no idea what I’m doing

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The Basics

I’m Matt, and no, the subtitle wasn’t a mistake. I literally have no idea what I’m doing.

I have a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice from Quinnipiac University and a Masters degree in Government from Johns Hopkins University. I thought it would be easy to find a job after I finished graduate school, but no one would hire me — and I mean no one.

There are too many paths out there and eventually, I ended up back where I started — not having the slightest idea of what I should do.

So I started writing.

I guess I always enjoyed writing to some extent, but I didn’t realize that I would enjoy it this much, and I especially didn't realize that people would value my writing as well. I’m a naturally curious person, so this platform gives me an excuse to research things that I can transform into an article and allows my mind to be as creative as possible. …

When the President is the main source of disinformation…

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Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

We’ve been warning about foreign disinformation campaigns for weeks in the lead-up to the presidential election. We knew it was happening, we pointed it out, and moved on. But maybe we overlooked the one entity that would end up being the main source of election disinformation in the United States: Donald Trump.

Wednesday night the outcome of the presidential election was still unknown as key states continued to count ballots. With Donald Trump behind in Arizona, his supporters travelled to a polling station where ballots were being counted and protested to “count the votes,” in hopes that he would gain ground and overtake Joe Biden. In Michigan, where Donald Trump was ahead at the time, his supporters rallied to “stop the vote.” …

Presidential propaganda comes at a price

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Photo by Sahand Hoseini on Unsplash

While hundreds of thousands of Americans are out of work, the political campaigns for both presidential candidates are projected to surpass $10 billion in advertisements, over $3 billion more than the 2016 election. Money is spent on television and digital ads targeted to a specific audience in key states hoping to swing the election in the candidate’s favor. The ads range from accurate information about a candidate’s policies to attacks on the other candidate with false information, to flat out propaganda. You’ve almost certainly seen one of these ads and thought to yourself, “That is not true at all,” or you’ve been able to easily debunk a claim. …

Social media & society.

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Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

“The public in the democratic nations around the world really doesn’t understand what disinformation and influence looks like and feels like when you see it,” said the Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center William Evanina. He’s not wrong, but he’s also not right. Disinformation around the time of elections has been a staple over the past few years and not just specific to the United States, but the degree to which it reaches its intended audience differs. How a society uses social media plays a crucial role in that aspect.

Part 1 of this article examined why countries tend to be more susceptible to disinformation than others. The two main factors which give disinformation a more prominent role in society are media literacy and civic engagement — countries with higher scores in both categories are more resilient to disinformation. The United States falls well below the Nordic countries in those metrics, making it highly susceptible to disinformation. But to truly understand how it is amplified and disseminated, we have to look at the main culprit — social media — and how societies use it. …

Where does the United States fall?

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

“A false story reaches 1,500 people six times quicker, on average, than a true story does. And while false stories outperform the truth on every subject…fake news about politics regularly does best,” writes Robinson Meyer from The Atlantic citing an MIT study. Whether it is a government wanting to alter its appearance in front of its own people or a foreign government using disinformation as a geopolitical strategy, disinformation has always existed in various forms. But social media has taken the tactic to new heights with more information at your fingertips than ever before. The prevalence of disinformation now leads to the disassociation with credible facts which have direct consequences to the way that society functions. …

Then let’s stop it.

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Photo by Setyaki Irham on Unsplash

Sometimes the best way to solve the threat is to think like the attacker.

You don’t need to target a voting machine to hack an election. Yes, the United States’ nearly archaic voting system is very, very tempting, but there are a few other powerful, indirect ways to cause chaos on election day and get your candidate elected. There are also ways to ensure that hacking and interference don’t happen. Unfortunately, the United States is much more vulnerable to the first scenario than we are prepared for the second.

So let’s hack an election. …

Broken windows make everything more interesting.

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Photo by Chris Henry on Unsplash

Since the videos of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd were released, then the reports of the murder of Breonna Taylor came out, thousands and thousands of activists across the country have taken to the streets demanding some sort, literally any sort of justice for those that are killed by the police. This has gone on for months and is still continuing even though you might not see it in the news anymore. But you have seen the videos of the broken storefront glass, the burning cars, and the closed streets. You may have thought to yourself, “Oh my goodness, look at the chaos! We need to lock our doors!” Who can blame you? …


Matt Spengler

Matt Spengler is an artist, author, and writer. He holds a master’s degree in Government from Johns Hopkins University.

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