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U.S. should focus on the psychology of false beliefs

Olga Kamenchuk

Erik Nisbet

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- More than technological fixes are needed to stop countries from spreading disinformation on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, according to two experts.

Policymakers and diplomats need to focus more on the psychology behind why citizens are so vulnerable to disinformation campaigns, said Mershon faculty affiliates Erik Nisbet and Olga Kamenchuk of The Ohio State University.

“There is so much attention on how social media companies can adjust their algorithms and ban bots to stop the flood of false information,” said Nisbet, an associate professor of communication. “But the human dimension is being left out. Why do people believe these inaccurate stories?”

Russia targeted American citizens during the 2016 election with posts on every major social media platform, according to reports produced for U.S. Senate investigators. This is just one example of how some countries have distributed “fake news” to influence the citizens of rival nations, according to the researchers.

In an invited paper just released in The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, Nisbet and Kamenchuk, a research associate at Ohio State’s Mershon Center for International Security Studies, discussed how to use psychology to battle these disinformation campaigns.

“Technology is only the tool to spread the disinformation,” Kamenchuk said. “It is important to understand how Facebook and Twitter can improve what they do, but it may be even more important to understand how consumers react to disinformation and what we can do to protect them.”

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Seth Myers

Max von Bargen

Every two years, doctoral candidates in the Department of History organize Military Fronters: A Graduate Symposium. This interdisciplinary conference brings together top scholars and Ohio State graduate students from multiple departments to discuss all aspects of military history.

This year’s Military Frontiers conference, organized by Max von Bargen and Seth Myers, showcases the scholarship of 12 graduate students, all of whom study topics relating to the management of force and power in international affairs.

The presenters represent a range of academic fields, and their research is based in a variety of methodologies. By bringing together up-and-coming scholars in different fields working on similar topics, the conference aims to promote communication and cooperation across academic disciplines.

While all the papers to be presented share certain common themes, the subjects of the presentations are quite diverse. These include the public impact of memoirs published by intelligence officers, data governance in the European Union, and fear and rumors in the United States during World War I.

The keynote address will be given Saturday (4/13) at 10:45 a.m. by Hal Brands, Henry A. Kissinger Distinguished Professor of Global Affairs, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. See the full conference program at go.osu.edu/militaryfrontiers2019

Conflict Resolution Education Keynote

The 13th International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education (CRE) is an opportunity to explore the wide array of local and global career opportunities in the field of conflict and peace. It takes place Friday, April 5, 2019, at Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, 2201 Fred Taylor Drive, and Saturday, April 6, 2019, at Graves Hall, 333 W. 10th Ave.

Highlights of the conference include a keynote panel on "Local and Global Opportunities for Careers in the Field of Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution," which will provide an overview of the skills and experience needed to work in this diverse field and options for volunteering, internships and jobs.

A Young Leaders Panel will include young people who have careers in the field of peace and conflict resolution. They will share lessons learned and tips for other young people interested in being leaders in their field, including what education is helpful, experience, as well as internships and skills that helped them achieve their positions.

The conference will also include a Career, Internship, and Education Fair, featuring more than 30 organizations ranging from governmental to non-governmental organizations locally and globally that offer internships, volunteer, career opportunities, and educational opportunities for students whose skill and knowledge sets are rooted in the area of peace and conflict studies.

See the full conference program at u.osu.edu/CRE2019

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Study shows how nations follow others in ratifying agreements

Skyler Cranmer

New research shows just how powerful the United States’ and other countries’ influence can be on persuading other nations to ratify international treaties.

The first-of-its-kind study shows the influence of countries in treaty ratification can extend beyond their close allies and could even help persuade rivals to join agreements.

“The simple act of a single country ratifying a treaty can have dramatic ramifications for what other countries do in ways that haven’t always been apparent,” said Mershon affiliate Skyler Cranmer, co-author of the study and the Carter Phillips and Sue Henry associate professor of political science at The Ohio State University.

In an article published March 7, 2019, in PLOS ONE, the researchers debuted a model that could predict how other countries would react when an individual country ratified one of 198 international environmental agreements between 1972 and 2000.

For example, the study found that the United States’ signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 may have influenced Russia to ratify the treaty. Without action by the United States, Russia would have had only a 40 percent probability of signing the treaty, according to the model.

“Superpowers can influence each other even if they’re rivals and their interests aren’t always aligned,” Cranmer said.

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Aisha Ahmad

For two decades, militant jihadism has been one of the world's most pressing security crises. In civil wars and insurgencies across the Muslim world, certain Islamist groups have taken advantage of the anarchy to establish political control over a broad range of territories and communities. In effect, they have built radical new jihadist proto-states.

Why have some ideologically-inspired Islamists been able to build state-like polities out of civil war stalemate, while many other armed groups have failed to gain similar traction?

In Jihad & Co.: Black Markets and Islamist Power (Oxford University Press, 2017), Aisha Ahmad argues that there are concrete economic reasons behind Islamist success. By tracking the economic activities of jihadist groups in Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Mali, and Iraq, she uncovers an unlikely actor in bringing Islamist groups to power: the local business community.

Jihad & Co. is winner of the Mershon Center's Edgar S. Furniss Award, given annually to an author whose first book makes an exceptional contribution to the study of national and international security. Ahmad will speak about the book at the Mershon Center on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at 3:30 p.m.. Read more and register at go.osu.edu/ahmada

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