The Machineries of Doubt & Disinformation: Cigarettes, Climate & Other Electronic Confusions [EE380 Computer Systems Colloquium]

The Machineries of Doubt & Disinformation: Cigarettes, Climate & Other Electronic Confusions
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 4:30pm
Gates B03
John R. Mashey (Semi-retired Computer Scientist)
Abstract / Description: 

The tobacco industry has long employed the best marketing techniques and adopted the latest technologies for disinformation. The fossil energy industries have employed similar tactics and technologies. For both, the Internet has proved a fertile ground and by now, similar tactics have gained force in politics.

For example, 2009 "Climategate" theft and use of emails against climate scientists seems a precursor of recent Russian efforts in American & French elections.

This talk uses insights from the well-documented history of tobacco and fossil disinformation machinery to anticipate further attacks on science and political processes, including thoughts about the challenges of informed skepticism in the world of Internet, Twitter and Facebook and electronic cigarettes that monitor and control usage, and may report back to the vendor.


John Mashey is a semi-retired computer scientist known for early work on UNIX, MIPS microprocessor design, and at Silicon Graphics, supercomputer design and the mid-1990s introduction of the phrase "Big Data".
In 2001, Dr. Mashey was a discussant for an EE380 lecture by famed Stanford climate scientist Stephen Schneider. That led to study of climate science and then of its antagonists, the disinformation groups later found to overlap strongly with those helping Big Tobacco.

He has written many investigative reports on these topics and has given talks on them at various universities.

He is a member of ACM, IEEE CS, AAAS, AGU and APS and the advisory committee for UCSF's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, which manages the 90Million-page database of tobacco company internal documents.

For further reading: