The Growing Threat of Misinformation and Disinformation

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The Importance of Fact-Finding

While the threat of misinformation and disinformation has been around for centuries, the term  ‘Strategic Psychological Warfare’ was only coined in the 1940s after WWI. Advancements in technology have meant the use of this type of warfare has grown exponentially – but what does it really involve?

Misinformation concerns the spread of false or inaccurate information for financial, personal, or political gain in an attempt to deceive. Social media has amplified the spread of false information, and advancements in artificial technology mean that creating this fake and malicious content has become even easier. 

There are ongoing examples of misinformation and its effects all around us today. For example, the misinformation surrounding the pandemic and the COVID-19 vaccine has led to many people refusing the vaccine, ultimately leading to higher transmission.

There are real-time issues and long-term issues that come with the increase in the spread of misinformation. Other off-hand examples would be false information surrounding Climate Change, or the 2019 US Presidential Election. 

Spotting misinformation online has become increasingly challenging due to the lack of regulation on social media and the internet. Anyone can say anything at any time and it is rarely challenged. We have lived through a pandemic in which former U.S. President Trump suggested ‘drinking bleach’ would combat the effects of the disease. If there is no accountability for misinformation, how do we stop the spread? We rely on the social media outlets such as Facebook (Meta), and Twitter to find and remove misinformation from their platforms, but this cannot be a viable option as the issue is far too vast. 

According to a Pew-Research report, over 86% of U.S. adults get their news from their smartphones and the internet. The spread of this false information is like a wildfire, and due to the lack of regulation – it’s becoming increasingly difficult to put it out – particularly when clickbait exists. 

In a world where clicks and shares lead to revenue – even reputable news and media outlets have succumbed to using ‘clickbait’ to generate engagement for their articles. So who and what do we trust – and how do we find the truth? 

It’s not a simple task but there are a few things that we can implement to become better at fact-finding and spotting disinformation. 

  1. Develop A Critical Mindset 

This doesn’t mean you need to turn into a full-on pessimist, but it’s important to use critical thinking skills when reading online. Question the credibility of the source, i.e is this a trustworthy news provider? Are you being drawn in by a sensational headline that the article does not reflect? This is known as ‘clickbait’ – which is the act of drawing traffic to social media and/or websites.

2. Learn To Source

You might find that you’re reading an article and you notice something feels off. It’s very easy to do a small bit of digging. Try to find the references used in the article to back up what they are claiming. However, you should be aware that those who have the intention of spreading misinformation can and do create fake pages and websites in an attempt to trick people. Look out for off-looking URLs and domains, and doctored photos and images.

3. Don’t Take Images At Face Value 

With the technology available today, it’s as easy to doctor an image as it is to post it online. If something doesn’t feel right, take the time to find the source of the image online. Tools such as Google reverse image search are an easy way of doing so.

4. Above All Else – Trust Your Gut

If something doesn’t feel right to you, it likely isn’t. Trust your instincts and don’t fall prey to the attempts of others to mislead you. The truth is out there, and with a little bit of work, we can find it. There is so much importance in the truth, let’s work together to find it!

At RiskEye, we are moving to a time of needing new skills to see this new digital world in a new way. RiskEye monitor your brand online 24/7, using real people to send you alerts, so you don’t have to spend so much time watching for risk. 

For an insight into online risk and what it means for you, check out our website www.riskeye.com, or email [email protected]. We make social safer!

 

 

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