I’m not a fan of Alex Jones and his Infowars project, but the name he chose for it is spot on. Democracy only works for the people when they understand what is happening. Disinformation compaigns are, among other things, a very real attack on democracy. I feel this is one of the defining challenges of our time.
Here is a recent story from the BBC that shows the scale of the info war going on around us today. The article is about a young woman called Tamara who was paid to write and post eight fake news articles every day. That’s close to 3000 articles a year, and that’s just from one person.
These are not simple fabrications, but deliberate distortions of real news. From the article:
Much of what she produced was misinformation based on real events, written in a way to provoke fear and anger among its readers. In the aggregate, the stories gave a false, skewed view of the world, playing to people’s prejudices.
“That thing happened, the people were there, the place was there. So it was never fake stories” in the sense of fabricating every detail. “It was propaganda and brainwashing in the way of telling the story,” says Tamara.
Tamara is just one person. In 2016, BuzzFeed News identified more than 100 pro-Trump websites being run from a single town in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. How many exist world-wide? I don’t think anybody knows.
How are we to know what is true and what is false? I’m really not sure.