Editor’s note: Defense One put up a nice summary filled with data on the spread of misinformation leading up to the US election. It’s far from reassuring. Despite the concerted efforts of social media companies and most media outlets, misinformation spread quickly and remains very entrenched with a backlash suggesting a surge in lack of trust in those companies themselves. Many who believed what was labeled misinformation deserved a greater airing are suggesting abandoning those companies for others more amenable to allowing the spread of information regardless of source, veracity or potential harm. That debate will, no doubt, continue. Peter Singer – noted futurist – is the author of this Defense One piece and does not shy away from calling out the Russians for having planted the seeds of our current struggles in 2016. The battle in the information environment has been going on for years – without a doubt. The worst outcome will be the continued undermining of our system of government and the ideas that hold our society together.
Singer’s final words:
There is still much to be learned about an election season that is still very much ongoing, but the overall data on misinformation is a stark reminder that the problem of hacking social media remains with us. It is not just a constantly mutating threat to authentic discourse and informed debate in our politics, but an “infodemic” that makes battling public health threats even more difficult. Each of the tactics and trends we saw targeting votes is already readying to target vaccines.
The battle for the presidency may soon be done, but online war will continue on.
Yes, it will continue and the stakes are very high. A recent post by IPA member and leader Dr. Paul Lieber (read it here) addresses some bigger issues. Dr. Lieber is more sanguine about the effect on any one election and argues for a greater societal problem and it’s hard to disagree. Regardless of the outcome, the problem will continue and the problem described by Dr. Lieber is our own lack of communication skills, lack of trust in institutions and in science. All true. What’s not clear is how to move forward.