The threat from disinformation is greater now than ever.
From the civil unrest triggered by the death of George Floyd to the coronavirus pandemic, public health and safety officials at all levels are quick to identify mis- and disinformation as legitimate threats to public health and safety, with several utilizing the term “infodemic” to illustrate how the spread of false information was akin to the spread of an actual virus. Given the media landscape and our hyper-connectivity via social, digital and mobile media, the analogy is entirely appropriate.
Along with sophisticated information warfare campaigns by foreign actors like Russia and China, both the pandemic and social unrest in Minneapolis and elsewhere have shone an important light on the considerable dangers associated with the spread of false information. These include mis-, dis-, and mal-information, as well as conspiracies; they’re not new and the threats they pose will outlive anything currently in the news.
Our upcoming election is sure to amplify the problem. Though mis-, dis-, and mal-information all are related to the spread of harmful information, they each are separate and distinct. Yet, each serves to undermine trust, erode communication channels, and significantly disrupt our democracy, communities, economy and places of work. Here are some helpful definitions: