From July 23-25 countries of every size and every side of the world, gathered in Singapore to learn about and discuss a 21st century problem: disinformation, online falsehoods, and fake news.
The conversation moved beyond, what fake news, disinformation and misinformation is and dove head first into how we globally combat this issue affecting so many countries and organizations. As contradictory as it may sound, disinformation knows no bias. It will attack the left, the right, US states, Asian countries, big corporations, individual actors, a variety of industries and so much more. For that reason it is an increasingly relevant global problem.
New Knowledge was on the ground at this year’s session to present on the disinformation landscape in the US, and to learn how other countries are tackling the problem. Here are our takeaways.
1)Disinformation and Fake News aren’t unique to the U.S.
The concept of “Fake News” has gained momentum and popularity in the last few years. While this might just seem like a cultural phenomena that is unique to the US because of the political climate, this workshop showed that couldn’t be further from the truth.
With Germany, France, Ukraine, India, Malaysia and even Myanmar in the room, each country had its own experience with fake news and disinformation that was unique to its country.
For example in the US many disinformation campaigns have occurred on Twitter’s platform, whereas in other countries Twitter isn’t as mainstream. In South Africa, some disinformation has taken on an offline form, with groups publishing false news via print publications, and through ads in the paper.
The moral of the story is that the world is living in the age of disinformation, and it’s a universal problem. Regardless of where you live, disinformation is relevant to everyone.
2)It’s more than just a government issue
When talking about disinformation, examples that people are most familiar with are compromised elections. But every speaker could attest that while election disinformation has gotten the most media coverage, disinformation and misinformation are not just a political issue. Instead, disinformation campaigns are relevant to large industries around the world.
Energy, entertainment, finance, and agriculture industries have experienced coordinated disinformation campaigns. Entertainment companies like Netflix have had likely automated accounts responsible for driving an anti-Netflix narrative uncovered, as well as suspected Kremlin-linked disinformation operatives attempting to co-op the narrative.
It’s important for society to make the shift to understand that disinformation doesn’t just have the potential to attack elections, but also other public facing organizations.
3)Technology can be used to fight the social media problem
While it’s easy to point fingers at social media networks and wait around for them to ban accounts and solve the fake news problem, it’s an unrealistic solution. Fighting disinformation is much more than just making it go away and erasing it from the internet. Once a malicious tweet is submitted, a slanderous headline is published, or a false image is posted, it is public and has the ability to be viral in an instant.
Fact checking solutions have been early to tackle the fake news problem and preserve the integrity of the press. When it comes to media manipulation, fact checking can offer a quick fix to this problem, however it may not be able tackle the larger problem of coordinated disinformation.
Instead organizations need a long term solution designed to last. They should lean on technology and disinformation solutions to help monitor their communities and proactively tackle any false narratives sent their way. The good news is that solutions like New Knowledge, are tackling disinformation head on, and giving organizations the tools that they need to fight back.
4) A correlation between technology advancement and severity of disinformation
Having a firsthand look into how different countries were combating misinformation provided the opportunity to draw parallels between online behaviors and trends, and their relation to disinformation. From this, there was a trend that was consistent among countries that have dealt with more severe forms of disinformation: they had greater access to technology.
In countries where it’s harder to get an internet connection, Facebook often took on the role of a search engine. This creates a large ground for misinformation to flourish and multiply. On the other hand, countries with greater access to technology and internet have experienced more severe misinformation and more coordinated disinformation attacks. From internet trolls spreading hate narratives in Germany, to bots used to influence the Brexit vote. Both countries have populations that are incredibly connected to the internet.
5) Disinformation is constantly evolving, so solutions must as well
As technology progresses to include different avenues to solve this problem and help governments and brands protect themselves from an attack, the opposition’s technology evolves as well.
Disinformation is taking on new and advanced forms, for instance like deepfakes. A Deepfake, is an artificial intelligence-based human image synthesis technique. It is used to combine and superimpose existing images and videos onto source images or videos. Most recently, Actor Jordan Peele used deepfake technology to ventriloquize former President Barack Obama into saying how he really feels about President Trump.
Another, challenge in this same realm is providing protection and a solution for disinformation occurring within private messaging services. India has publicly dealt with this challenge as misinformation spread across WhatsApp, a cross platform messaging service, resulting in the killing of two dozen innocent people falsely accused of being child kidnappers.
It’s up to disinformation detection technology to remain agile and stay ahead of these new evolving forms and channels of disinformation tactics, and create solutions to help organizations defend themselves.
Reach out to learn more about how New Knowledge can keep your brand safe from damaging disinformation.