(pan-dem-ic : occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population.)
It is not hyperbolic to say it: The waves of disinformation engulfing global society now represent a pandemic of the mind. Disinformation ( a k a misinformation/ attacks on truth/ altered facts) is now analogous to COVID 19 and its variants/sub variants. Both are global, highly transmissible and dangerous.
Sadly, there are also these harsh realities:
. The disinformation pandemic and the COVID 19 pandemic overlap, thus having a multiplier effect as a threat to society.
. What’s more, both are likely impossible to stamp out.
[“Ed Yong How the Pandemic Now Ends” https://apple.co/3z5awfV “The zero COVID dream of fully stamping out the virus is a fantasy” … It will mutate into an endemic.]
Disinformation is undermining the foundation and pillars of global society and democracy – truth, trust and merited certainty:
”The war for truth is now the war to preserve our democracy…We need to restore the stigma to lying and liars before it is too late. We need to hunt for truth and mercilessly discredit the forces of disinformation. It is the freedom battle of our generation.” – Thomas Friedman https://nyti.ms/3J34Szs
”Disinformation Fuels Distrust and Even Violence at All Levels of Government” https://n.pr/3J4S0Jj
”Disinformation has become another untouchable problem in Washington
“A vast accumulation of assaults on democracy and truth with lies, disinformation and conspiracy fantasies turned deadly in the United States on January 6th, 2021, when a lies-inspired mob invaded the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. Seminal repercussions , immediately underway, will be felt for decades.”- “Global Public Relations in the Roiling Twenty Twenties”. pg. 15) https://businessinsociety.net/
”Climate disinformation leaves lasting mark as world heats” https://bit.ly/3oxqFFZ
” How to Terminate Russia Disinformation https://bit.ly/3JgHH
Limiting the damage
What’s to be done to limit the disinformation carnage? There is a role for each of us. Many current effective anti-disinformation campaigns share these basic universals:
Prioritize the disinformation issue.
Sign on for the long-term.
Research the many sources of anti-disinformation progress.
Build on incremental advances.
Communicate, communicate, communicate; share the progress.
Fortunately, there are many institutions, organizations and individuals – some newly engaged, others well entrenched – dedicated to the anti-disinformation long-term battle. One of the most encouraging signs of progress is the interest and action by young people, as recently demonstrated in a Seattle: “High school students educate the community on how to identify and combat misinformation https://bit.ly/3J5YkjE
Too, many communication professionals, for whom disinformation is virtually a visceral wound, are also hard at work in these trenches. Noteworthy examples:
From the Poynter Institute, “a global leader in journalism …exists to make good journalism better”:
- “A guide to anti-misinformation actions around the world”, an encyclopedic report on where governments have taken action against online misinformation. https://bit.ly/2TRUdBt This 2020 survey has served as a marker for “existing attempts to legislate against what can broadly be referred to as online misinformation… While not every law contained here relates to misinformation specifically, they’ve all often wrapped into that broader discussion. We have attempted to label different interventions as clearly as possible.”
2. “These 6 tips will help you spot misinformation online”. Among the Poynter tips, ask these questions: “Who is behind the information? What’s the evidence” What are other sources saying? https://bit.ly/3OwQY9V .
Last year, the Public Relations Society of America established “Voices4Everyone”, a powerful resource to generate a national conversation building mutual understanding, trust and civil engagement through more inclusive civil discourse. “V4E” addresses disinformation as a major obstacle to such progress:
“The vast majority of Americans … view disinformation as a serious threat to democracy and our economy saying it pollutes the information environment and undermines the ability of individuals and organizations to engage in informed decision-making”. https://bit.ly/3AN4rHk
The “V4E” platform confronts anti-disinformation with a continuous array of research, reports, commentaries and events with special emphasis on cooperative projects with colleges and universities, many via Public Relations Students Society of America chapters. A current example: Through their students-run firm, (The Swing Agency), Hofstra University students recently worked with PRSA to produce an engaging anti-disinformation series of shareable graphics for posts, slideshows and stories. https://bit.ly/3JeRnwX
There are, of course, many such anti-disinformation initiatives the world over. But are there enough?
Surely, there is more than enough motivation for such campaigns and, hopefully, many more to come:
“We should not stand by and just throw up our hands and say this is an impossible beast that is going to take over our democracy.”
– Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington