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This month, the entire podcast is devoted to misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories.
You can listen to the audio version right here below! (You can also listen on the go anytime, via our Spotify and Apple podcast channels The Security Podcasts.)
(Listen to episode 4 right here!)
This month, Cyjax CISO, Ian Thornton-Trump, and Tristan de Souza (Editor and Head of Communications), dive into the alarming and threatening world of misinformation and disinformation.
Articles shared unwittingly by someone ignorant of their malicious (or fake) nature; intentional falsehoods intended to sow discord and distrust; madcap theories that somehow take root in the public imagination and poison the discourse. All three have become serious issues in the last decade, with an acceleration in the last five years. Crucially, there is an interplay between these types of information, a cross-pollination, that makes them more dangerous.
The febrile and rapidly changing political environment of the last decade – particularly in the West – has resulted in a dangerously polarised discourse. Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent closure of all ‘real-world’ spaces for communication exacerbated the way in which social media, online forums, and other virtual communication environments amplify the most controversial voices.
The pandemic has also been yet another locus for people to express their suspicion of the ‘mainstream media’, experts, Big Pharma, government and politicians. In the face of these two confluent factors – an inherent suspicion of traditional sources of information, and content being produced that is intentionally misleading or inflammatory – the newspapers and social media companies sought to make it harder for misinformation to spread by imposing (not particularly strict) guidelines on content sharing. Much of this boiled down to an exhortation for users to take personal responsibility for fact-checking articles that they might share. The big problem here being that, as many have written in recent years, it is often not possible for experienced Editors in Chief to tell troll- or AI-generated content from that composed by legitimate authors. How, then, can ‘regular Joe’ be expected to see behind these carefully constructed facades?
And so, we arrive at the much-debated era of ‘post truth’. The current online media environment is one populated by increasingly polarised individuals, keen to find articles that confirm their biases, and nation-states and others only too willing to push out material that feeds this desire, exposing them to content that polarizes them further. Is regulation the answer? Where can governments step in to improve the circulation of ‘truthful’ information? Or is it just as important that politicians get their own houses in order, attempt to regain the trust of their citizens, and fight misinformation that way?