Friday, April 29, 2022

David L. Sloss's "Tyrants on Twitter"

David L. Sloss is the John A. and Elizabeth H. Sutro Professor of Law at Santa Clara University. He is the author of The Death of Treaty Supremacy: An Invisible Constitutional Change (2016). Before entering academia, he worked for the U.S. government on drafting and negotiating arms control treaties.

Sloss applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Tyrants on Twitter: Protecting Democracies from Information Warfare, and reported the following:
Proponents of the Page 99 Test claim that if a reader opens the book to page ninety-nine, “the quality of the whole will be revealed to you."

That claim is partly true for my book, but not entirely true. Page ninety-nine is included in a chapter on China. The chapter analyzes China’s information warfare strategy and tactics. The first part of page ninety-nine includes the final paragraph of a section examining how China exploited its worldwide media empire to spread propaganda about Covid-19 to a global audience. The second part of the page includes the opening paragraph of a section that analyzes China’s use of information warfare tactics to meddle in established democracies.

Page ninety-nine presents some data on death rates from Covid-19, showing that—as of November 2020—China had far fewer deaths per 100,000 population than most western democracies. Page ninety-nine says:
To some extent, the published data may simply indicate that China’s dictatorship is better able to suppress truthful information than Western democracies. However, even if the actual numbers from China are ten times higher than the reported numbers, it would still be true that China has done a better job protecting its people from Covid-19 than many Western democracies. Thus, the data about Covid-19 illustrates a basic point about information competition. If the United States and like-minded countries want to win the battle of ideas between democracy and authoritarianism, liberal democratic governments need to do a better job promoting the welfare of their citizens, not just in terms of individual liberty, but also in terms of health, safety, and economic security.
The book as a whole presents a deep dive into Chinese and Russian information warfare tactics. Page ninety-nine provides a nice illustration of that deep dive. However, the book also has two other key elements that the reader will not see on page ninety-nine. First, the book situates information warfare in a broader strategic context, explaining how Chinese and Russian information warfare relates to the ongoing geopolitical competition between democracies and autocracies. Second, the book presents a detailed policy proposal for cooperation among liberal democracies; it recommends a new system for transnational regulation of social media to protect democracies from Chinese and Russian information warfare.
Follow David L. Sloss on Twitter and learn more about Tyrants on Twitter at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue