Note: All opinions on the IPA blog are those of the author and except where noted not official positions of the Association.
2020 was a plague year, and not only from an epidemiological standpoint: disinformation went mainstream, and conspiracy theories that previously would have been relegated to dark corners of the internet gained traction with a speed and tenacity that previously would have been unimaginable.
From this perspective, COVID-19 was just fuel on the fire and I’d agree. IPA and many others have been highlighting the dangers of disinformation via our understanding of Cognitive Security. I do think that IPA and some others are too trusting in the ‘public’ sorting things out through a free flow of information and better education. At some point there does need to be some arbitration.
I can remember 15 years ago being fact-checked by a fellow staff member saying “I need to check that out on snopes.com.” At the time, I was familiar with snopes and its ability to deflate some minor tiff over some inconsequential thing. Somehow serious and deadly arguments can emerge from simply disputing well known facts! We now have members of Congress openly supporting the QAnon conspiracy; so much for fact checking!
Alas, we all shape our own environments with information that supports our worldview. George Orwell in one of his more penetrating declarations said “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” In a world awash in information from which more and more people are picking-and-choosing only that information that conforms to their world view the “struggle” will only become greater.
Alas, the speed and volume of information combined with the ubiquity of high-speed communications means the lies will continue to multiply and the “struggle” will require effort and yes, arbitration. If you favor a world free of tyranny you’ll fight for unassailable truths, have vigorous debates over the policies that further freedom and support the search for unassailable truth – at least in this corporeal world.
When social media has made anyone, anywhere a ‘source’ of information with no editor, fact-checker or corroborating source, put me in the camp of desiring more ‘arbitration.’ The CFR blogger goes on to ask: “Should social media simply amplify discourse, or actively shape it?” Wow. We are assigning a lot of responsibility to these private entities that exist (at least all of the large ones) for one reason: To Make A Lot of Money. Now, we want them to “shape” our discourse. Count me out. Social media has a place in our discourse as a way to share a wealth of information easily but we must use it as a means to inform and not a source of unquestionable truths.
Whatever you do, support the fight against those that would undermine our society with disinformation. Participate in discourse with an open mind and keep our freedoms close.
Read the whole CFR entry here – https://www.cfr.org/blog/2020-review-year-disinformation-went-mainstream