Ask the Russians or any other country
Fake news. Is that like true facts? Some people will argue that using â€œfakeâ€ with â€œnewsâ€ is redundant. Others, thankfully, still believe that news gathering is a tried-and-true, fact-based profession.
But, alas, here comes the internet, where anyone can dump anything onto a website, blog, message board, Facebook or Instagram account and call it the truth because they wish it to be. Then there’s purposeful disinformation, used to manipulate, emanating from websites that camouflage themselves as news.
What exactly is disinformation? Well, there are countless definitions, but the Wikipedia post makes sense: Disinformation (Russian: dezinformatsiya and dezinformatsia) is intentionally false or misleading information that is spread in a calculated way to deceive target audiences.
Of course, we had a heck of an election year, and disinformation was as abundant as nerds at a Star Wars premiere. But there’s method in the madness. Here’s a tactic relayed by Michael Sweeney in â€œTwenty-Five Ways To Suppress Truth: The Rules of Disinformationâ€:
Sidetrack opponents with name calling and ridicule. This is also known as the primary â€œattack the messengerâ€ ploy, though other methods qualify as variants of that approach. Associate opponents with unpopular titles such as â€œkooks,â€ â€œright-wing,â€ â€œliberal,â€ â€œleft-wing,â€ â€œterrorists,â€ â€œconspiracy buffs,â€ â€œradicals,â€ â€œmilitia,â€ â€œracists,â€ â€œreligious fanatics,â€ â€œsexual deviates,â€ and so forth.
I guess we’ve seen a little bit of that (sarcasm inserted here).
This is a nifty process that’s been around a long time. Computer scientists call it â€œFog Computing.â€ In a paper for DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the premiere research arm of the U.S. military, researchers say they’ve built â€œa prototype for automatically generating and distributing believable misinformation â€¦ and then tracking access and attempted misuse of it. We call this â€˜disinformation technology.’â€
Well, that was reported four years ago. I’m sure we have a computer sitting in some heavily protected, double-walled facility spitting out disinformation about me right now.
It’s ironic that many members of the press and Congress have looked accusingly at the Russians regarding their use of disinformation. Ha! Every legitimate country uses illegitimate information to throw off enemies, allies and even their own people. Think D-Day, for example.
The thing that seems to be frustrating politicians and media alike is how the internet is a no-holds-barred purveyor of just about everything, true or not. False allegations, fabricated stories, made-up events â€¦ these are now available to the many rather than a select few, who pass them on to like-minded people, who pass them on â€¦ it’s out of control, and it’s the new world order.
A lot has happened since Al Gore invented the internet. There’s no end to these falsehoods, and there’s little defense against them. But good luck, Mr. Zuckerberg.