Truth decay, fake news, disinformation, Russian propaganda, science, misinformation | Homeland Security Newswire

Truth decayResponsible journalism in an age of irresponsible information

Published 26 March 2018

Disinformation and misinformation seem to be everywhere. They are often spread by foreign actors like the Russian government who aim to stoke tensions within the United States. Other state or non-state actors may already be starting to copy these tactics. The problem of disinformation is exacerbated by two deeper and longer-standing crises within the American media system: a crisis of business model and a crisis of norms.

Disinformation and misinformation seem to be everywhere. They are often spread by foreign actors like the Russian government who aim to stoke tensions within the United States. Other state or non-state actors may already be starting to copy these tactics. The problem of disinformation is exacerbated by two deeper and longer-standing crises within the American media system: a crisis of business model and a crisis of norms.

Though issues of disinformation are not new, their appearance in new forms of weaponized information and social media call for new best practices within media organizations. In a new policy brief, Heidi Tworek, a Non-Resident Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, offers some simple solutions to help journalists and editors avoid playing an unintentional role in information warfare and to increase trust in journalism.

The recommendations fall into three categories: how to detect disinformation; how to increase literacy about foreign interference; how to anticipate future problems today.

Here are excerpts from Tworek’s brief:

Current assessments of reporting on Russian interference in Western democratic institutions fall into two diametrically opposed camps: the pessimists and the optimists. Optimists point to increased subscriptions to publications like the New York Times and vigorous reporting on complicated stories like Russian interference in the U.S. election. They praise journalists for careful investigative work that has often anticipated developments in the Mueller investigation or unearthed information in the public interest. Pessimists point to media organizations that unintentionally act as pawns in an international chess game of disinformation by amplifying extreme and/ or fictional figures and news. They worry that media outlets are failing to explain the threats to American democracy and are chasing traffic over truth.

Though they may seem contradictory, both assessments ring true. But strong investigative reporting by major outlets does not absolve them of the responsibility to address the pessimists’ valid concerns. We find ourselves confronted with a “firehose of falsehood” from governments like Putin’s Russia.[1] Any overall reaction will involve interlocking responses from government, educators, civil society, and journalists. This is not simply a reaction to Russia, but rather an opportunity to strengthen democratic resilience. Russian tactics to spread disinformation and exacerbate tensions within the United States may soon be copied by other state or non-state actors. Though these problems are not new, their appearance in new forms of weaponized information and social media call for new best practices that media organizations might enact.