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Who Watches the Watchmen: ‘Misinformation Expert’ Joan Donovan Accused of Spreading Misinformation

Dr. Joan Donovan of Harvard
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Joan Donovan, a supposed expert on “misinformation” and former research director at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center, has been accused of spreading misinformation about her departure from the once prestigious institution.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Joan Donovan, a supposed expert on misinformation and former research director at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, finds herself embroiled in a controversy surrounding her departure from the Ivy League institution. Donovan, known for her work on media manipulation and the spread of disinformation online, has made several claims about the circumstances of her leaving Harvard, which have been called into question by former colleagues and university officials.

Happy Mark Zuckerberg

Happy Mark Zuckerberg (Jeff Bottari/Getty)

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS - MARCH 23: The Harvard University campus is shown on March 23, 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Students were required to be out of their dorms no later than March 15 and finish the rest of the semester online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS – MARCH 23: The Harvard University campus is shown on March 23, 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Students were required to be out of their dorms no later than March 15 and finish the rest of the semester online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

In a 248-page document released in December 2022, Donovan alleged that Harvard had mistreated her and her team, the Technology and Social Change Project, due to the university’s ties to Meta (formerly Facebook). She claimed that Harvard had eliminated her role and the team she led under pressure from Meta executives, particularly Elliot Schrage, a former Facebook executive and Harvard alumnus. Donovan pointed to a Zoom call in October 2021, during which Schrage allegedly monopolized the discussion and accused her of inaccurately reading documents related to Facebook. However, a recording of the meeting contradicts Donovan’s account, showing that Schrage spoke for only three minutes and did not bring up the leaked Facebook files.

Interviews with former team members, Shorenstein Center staff, and university officials have revealed inconsistencies in Donovan’s narrative. Eleven former Technology and Social Change Project members and Shorenstein staffers stated that they had seen no evidence of Meta exerting pressure on Donovan’s team or that its influence led to the team’s disbandment. Some of Donovan’s other claims, such as Harvard owning the copyright to her book “Meme Wars” and the university stealing her plans to publish confidential Facebook documents, have also been disputed by those directly involved.

Donovan’s allegations regarding the FBarchive, a project aimed at creating a searchable archive of leaked Facebook documents, have also been contested. While Donovan claims that the project was her brainchild and that she was cut out of it due to Meta’s influence, Latanya Sweeney, a professor who worked on the project, called Donovan’s version of events “gross mischaracterizations and misstatements.” Sweeney stated that she had acquired her own cache of the files before Donovan and that the vast majority of the work on the project was done by Sweeney and her team.

Former colleagues have also expressed concerns about Donovan’s management style and behavior during her final years at Harvard. They cite instances of canceled meetings, complaints about university administrators, and attempts to influence funders to withdraw their support for the team, which would have put staff members’ jobs at risk earlier than anticipated. Brandi Collins-Dexter, a former associate director of research, felt that Donovan was using her as “a shield and a weapon” in service of her own brand and public perception.

Read more at Chronicle here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship.

via June 8th 2024