Misinformation muddle threatens foundations of civilized society

HuffPost editor Lydia Polgreen warns of the dire consequences with the proliferation of fake news that threatens the “information ecosystem on which modern civilization depends.” Says Polgreen, “The collapse of the information ecosystem has already wreaked havoc on our political systems. It has undermined democratic elections. It has shaken basic trust in institutions. It has left us with a world in which anyone is free to choose their own facts. It threatens to fundamentally destabilize the existing world order.” (The Guardian, November 19, 2019)

Add in the poll results showing that 47 percent of the populace say it’s difficult to discern when information is true. Citizens have trouble separating factual reporting from opinion. President Donald Trump and other politicians add to the muddle by claiming over and over that something is true that has been thoroughly debunked. (The New York Times, November 18, 2019, by Sabrina Tavernise and Aidan Gardiner)

Three Stanford scholars argue that the U.S. has done little to prepare for the inevitable onslaught of false news the Russian intelligence agency is expected to unload during the 2020 elections. The Russians have long been adept at “narrative laundering,” putting out nefarious spins based on authentic documents. The scholars urge tech companies to do more to meet the challenge, “The big tech companies have embarked on some reforms in response to Russian mischief-making, such as enhancing advertising transparency and algorithmic down-ranking of divisive political content. But such moves are of little use against intelligence professionals who are willing to conjure up fake media organizations, invent think tanks and support Kremlin-aligned conspiratorial voices.” (The Washington Post, November 15, 2019, Renee DiResta, Michael McFaul and Alex Stamos)

For related FAC coverage, click here, here and here.