Why is disinformation so pervasive and what can we do about it?

Why is disinformation so pervasive and what can we do about it?

Key words: information, disinformation, truth, fake news, media, internet

Distortion of the truth, giving it a spin or angle, has been going on through all of history. But, it has never been so easy to spread misinformation and lies, widely and quickly, as is possible in the age of the Internet.

➡️ Backstory: Governments, organisations and individuals are flooding the world’s media with disinformation or malicious content. Writing in The Conversation, Matthieu O’Neil points out that the goal is profit or gaining a strategic advantage. Why has this come about?

✅ Here are the take home messages that O’Neil gives us.

➡️ Main idea: 3 possible reasons can account for this situation.

  1. The mainstream media has lost its credibility. People distrust these traditional sources of authority and are quick to latch onto poorly substantiated reports.
  2. Social media, the dominant tool for misinformation, focuses on engagement rather than the truth. They promote shocking claims and news that generate anger. There is little attempt at verifying the truth.
    Studies show that “fake news” spread further, faster and deeper than the truth.
  3. Disinformation tactics are deliberately engineered by agencies with the intent of creating disruption and polarisation in society. Subtle, subversive propaganda is pushed without being overtly false.

➡️ Call to action: O’Neil suggests Wikipedia as a single, most easily accessible tool for protecting ourselves. When you come across a dubious claim, open Wikipedia and check.

There are many other sites on the web that specifically combat this problem. Search Google using this term: “fact checking sites” for some popular utilities.

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