Countering Disinformation

When Disinformation is Rampant

In our society, disinformation runs rampant. Disinformation can not only alter public opinion, it is powerful enough to undermine civil society. It can also be used to target a community. In 2020, that threat is omnipresent.

Those who wish to spread disinformation have learned sophisticated techniques by observing foreign interference in the US national election of 2016. Social media was then, and remains now, the top weapon of choice. This is an easy task to achieve when the message, accurate or not, confirms the bias of mass-readership in a viral manner.

The perfect storm of uninformed opinion and here-say has drowned out reasonable discourse and empiricism. Social media channels, and mainstream news networks, publish soundbites quickly and sometimes without fully vetting the facts. This disinformation is often echoed by celebrities and then by their fan base. This furthers suspicion and division, and damages society even further. If they happen at all, retractions are rare and inconspicuous. Some must be forced by legal action.

There is no time greater than now to correct this issue, and to remain vigilant by comparing opinion, myth and stereotype against established fact. Even items of great benefit, and thought to be well understood by the public, are not safe from disinformation. An excellent example is vaccines – they work, as their efficacy and safety have been proven over and over through the scientific method. Yet today we see a resurgence in formerly eradicated diseases because disinformation has convinced some parents not to vaccinate their children.

The battle between empiricism and opinion has dire consequences. When proven methodolgies are ignored and disinformation is permitted to go unchecked, falsehoods become thought of as fact. This is especially dangerous in our public educational system. Disinformation and unsupported myths cause impressionable children to develop deep biases.