The College of Arts and Sciences' communications office works closely with Cornell's Media Relations Office. As the College's representatives to media, we connect faculty experts and thought leaders to local, regional, national and international media organizations.
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Current press statements from Arts & Sciences faculty:
After targeting king’s legitimacy, Thai protest hits at his wealth
Protesters in Thailand are accelerating their campaigns against the government by planning a rally in front of a key agency building on Wednesday.
Tamara Loos professor of history and Thai studies at Cornell University, says that by picking this specific location protesters want to strike a blow to the financial basis for the king’s power and wealth.
“This Wednesday, Thai protesters will march on the Crown Property Bureau (CPB), the source of King Vajiralongkorn’s enormous wealth. The CPB manages the monarchy’s wealth, which derives from prime real estate in Bangkok and the provinces, major shares in the Siam Commercial Bank, and stakes in the country’s largest industrial conglomerate, the Siam Cement Company.
“The property holdings in Bangkok and shares in these two companies alone are worth roughly $40 billion. In June 2018, King Vajiralongkorn claimed the CPB as his personal wealth. He now has the power to appoint and remove all board members and spend the assets as he pleases. What makes this particularly egregious is that the king lives lavishly abroad while Thai people experience hardship caused by their economy shrinking over 6%.
“Those whose livelihoods depend on tourism are hardest hit. They lead a life of precarity in stark contrast to the king who uses CPB funds to support a fleet of nearly 40 helicopters and jets. In addition to the funds generated by the CPB, Thai people pay over $1 billion in costs generated by the monarchy to support the salaries of the staff working in the Royal Household Bureau, royal security, and the media machinery that propagates the monarchy’s image. Last week, protesters attacked the legal basis of the king’s power by marching on parliament to demand changes to the constitution that would place the monarchy under law.
“This week they target the financial basis of the king’s power. The PM has announced he will begin implementing Article 112 again, which allows authorities to arrest anyone who commits lèse majesté so we can expect more arrests as well as continued use of water cannons, police in riot gear, and tear gas. However, it is crucial to note that these young protesters have permanently transformed public culture regarding the monarchy, which will be subject to continued critique. Cracking down on protesters now only delays a future conflict between those who want genuine change in Thailand’s political institutions and the military.”
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Facebook, Twitter Senate testimony
Facebook, Twitter face Senate: will they stop fake-news avalanche?
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey are testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday about actions their companies have taken to stem the spread of misinformation in the lead up to and following the U.S. election.
Alexandra Cirone is professor of government at Cornell University who teaches a course on post-truth politics. Cirone studies the spread of fake news and disinformation online and says the 2020 election unveiled the dangerous potential for domestic actors to spread lies.
“The 2020 election demonstrated that disinformation is here to stay, and has the potential to play a dangerous role in U.S. politics. But while fake news in 2016 was about foreign interference in domestic elections, 2020 showed us that social media can be a platform for domestic actors to spread lies and conspiracy theories.
“Over the past two weeks, Twitter and Facebook were working overtime to remove election misinformation from their platforms and police users, but this still wasn’t enough.
“On Facebook, there was a serious issue with the rise of public groups and page networks coordinating around false claims of electoral fraud. These began as groups forming to discuss the election, but quickly grew to include conspiracy theories and QAnon content, and eventually calling for violence. The ‘Stop the Steal’ group and hashtag, and the copycat groups that sprung out of this movement, amassed a few hundred thousand followers in just a few days. Facebook page and group algorithms also aid this exponential spread, by suggesting ‘related’ content to users.
“But some social media users are even exiting mainstream platforms and moving to other more extreme platforms such as Parler, an ‘unbiased social media network’ with less content moderation, that is rife with misinformation. Other right wing media outlets, such as Newsmax, and social media apps are seeing a rise in usage. If mainstream social media platforms are losing customers, this might make these companies slow to internally police during a time when it’s clear we need more regulation.
“Given what’s happened in the 2020 Election, it will be interesting to see to what extent a Biden administration will pursue more active regulation of social media companies.”
William Schmidt is a professor of operations, technology and information management at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. Schmidt and colleagues at the University of California, Berkley, and the University College of London recently developed a machine learning tool to identify false information early and help policymakers and platforms regulate malicious content before it spreads.
“The line between tackling false information and censorship is gray, and where that grayness stops and starts is different for different societies. Social media companies face challenges because they operate in different cultures and must balance different societal norms.
“However, social media firms generate an incredible amount of revenue, and have expended relatively little effort toward addressing a problem that their platforms have intensified. The leaders of those companies should respond to tough questions on this issue. They should recognize their ownership of the problems that their Pandora’s boxes have unleashed. When you move fast and break things, you must assume responsibility for what you have broken.
“A critical first step is early identification of the sources of false information. Research by Cornell University and UCL shows that machine learning tools can successfully identify false information web domains before they begin operations and amplify their message through social media.”
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Peru constitutional crisis
Presidential ousting atypical even in turbulent, corruption-plagued Peru
With the weekend’s resignation of its interim president, Peru plunged into a constitutional crisis that Kenneth Roberts, professor of comparative and Latin American politics at Cornell University, says is much more than just another cycle of political instability for the country.
“The resignation of Peru's Interim President Manuel Merino in response to mass protests against the earlier impeachment of President Martin Vizcarra is much more than another cycle of political instability in one of Latin America's most turbulent, corruption-plagued democracies.
“It also sends a powerful warning sign against the abuse of congressional impeachment powers, which lies at the heart of the current crisis. Like legislatures in Brazil and Paraguay, Peru's congress ‘weaponized’ the impeachment tool for transparently self-interested political goals—and Peruvian society has risen up to hold the ringleaders accountable.”
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Hong Kong governance
Hong Kong resignations may end one country, two systems
Pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong resigned en masse on Wednesday in protest against Beijing’s interference in the city’s legislature. The move marks a crescendo in tensions between Beijing-leaning authorities and their pro-democracy counterparts, who have been denouncing China’s stifling approach towards opposition and dissent.
Allen Carlson, associate professor of government and an expert in Chinese politics at Cornell University, says the developments in Hong Kong stand as a warning that China will be one of the first issues on Biden’s foreign policy agenda come January.
“Earlier this summer, China imposed a sweeping new national security measure on Hong Kong. The measure, intended to stifle dissent there, elicited wide-spread opposition in the city-state, and from much of the international community. It was feared that the bill signaled the end of the one country, two systems formula, and the Basic Law — the framework which has governed Hong Kong politics ever since the resumption of Chinese rule on July 1, 1997.
“Sadly, the last several months have proven such misgivings to be all too accurate.
“During this period, the pro-Beijing Hong Kong authorities have repeatedly silenced even the most tepid acts of opposition, and again and again done so with reference to the new law. And over the last several days the scope of the crackdown has expanded yet again.
“More specifically, Beijing passed new legislation that paved the way for the removal of pro-democracy representatives in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. In protest of this move, the remaining pro-democracy legislators in this body resigned en masse.
“This development stands as further confirmation of Beijing’s intentions regarding Hong Kong: to bring it to heel, to root out any voices that oppose such a development, and assert more direct control than ever before over the once autonomous city-state.
“It also underscores that China (and Hong Kong) will be among the most pressing issues facing President-elect Biden following his inauguration in January.”
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