Focusing on ‘Disinformation’ Creates More Problems Than It Solves

Focusing on ‘Disinformation’ Creates More Problems Than It Solves
Then-members of the European Commission report on the EU’s Action Plan to counter disinformation, in Brussels, Dec. 5, 2018 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

For nearly a decade now, an increasingly large chunk of government, academia and civil society has fought against media manipulation, which has been associated with and blamed for a wide range of social and societal ills. A wellspring of trans-Atlantic institutions has marshaled resources to expose, pre-bunk, de-bunk, de-fund and de-platform illicit influence online, and counter-disinformation cells now abound everywhere from Foreign Ministries to climate NGOs.

A start-up industry along the same lines has also formed, as brands, governments, foundations and private donors all now worry that the information environments in which they seek to spread their messages are being polluted. More people than ever before now know that information spaces are under attack in various ways, and more is spent to fend off such attempts.

Yet, despite all those efforts, the tide doesn’t appear to be turning. Disinformation about everything from vaccines, biolabs and climate change to election integrity, cryptocurrency, stock values and war crimes continues to increase. The information manipulators themselves not only are undeterred, but they increasingly market their services openly online, competing to innovate better and cheaper offerings.

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