The current global health pandemic is underscoring the serious threats faced by democratic society from disinformation campaigns.
By the end of March, there were more than 110 Kremlin-based disinformation campaigns alone. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is engaged in an aggressive information campaign to reshape the global narrative around COVID-19 so the world sees China as the global leader in the response to this crisis rather than as the source of the pandemic.
What we are seeing via COVID-19 is the equivalent of sunshine that is letting us see a problem that is daily, global and one capable of impacting the society we work and live in.
Last week, I moderated a panel at the Page Spring Seminar that featured the thoughts of Lea Gabrielle, U.S. Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center, U.S. State Department, David Kirkpatrick, Founder & CEO, Techonomy and Paul Quigley, Founder & CEO, NewsWhip, leading to a robust discussion.
It’s clear that a major problem faces us worldwide that is not going away anytime soon. The question is what’s next and what can members of Page do, either as a team within Page or within their respective companies.
The Panel surfaced several ideas that are worth further exploration.
A New Form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is Emerging – the members of Page have been leaders, as Special Envoy Gabrielle pointed out, in building important CSR programs for many topics, ranging from the environment to support of patient organizations battling disease to diversity and inclusion. When a subject has the potential to impact our companies, communities and families, it rises to the top. In the area of disinformation, think of it as a multi-faceted issue.
There is a half a trillion-dollar counterfeit industry. Illegal drugs, including fentanyl are sold relatively easily via online channels. We have the constant threat of election interference and the continual flow of disinformation that takes advantage of any topic to sow confusion and chaos. Understanding how to battle this array of issues requires focus and CSR-type initiatives to accomplish this objective.
A Need to “Coach” Social Media Companies on Standards – as David Kirkpatrick pointed out, we have many inconsistencies in how social media companies are handling bad actors, whether it is their time to respond, their decision on who to block or delete or their general attitude on which content is acceptable or not. We live in a world where 4.5 billion of us are online and most of this group spends their time in the platforms of two companies (Facebook and Google) via Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp and Google and YouTube.
What are the right standards for regulating content? Is it time for us to address “new media” with new rules and expectations? How can we influence standards of all social media channels worldwide?
Education is Fundamental to Combating Disinformation – to move beyond agreement on the problem of disinformation, we need to build new educational content that examines trends in media consumption, explains psychological models that show how people’s views are shaped, pro or con, and describes the techniques and tools used by bad actors, so we can better protect our companies, communities, employees and families. Understanding how adversaries work is often the best way to innovate and minimize their impact.
Page and its members are in a perfect place, in terms of expertise, to drive the creation of a curriculum that can help us all worldwide.
As Lea pointed out in her remarks, there are 7.6 billion of us in the world and nearly all of us just want to live a good life, work hard and enjoy our families. A very small percentage of people try to disrupt society via disinformation to divide us and to make us question our values and our freedoms.
The world will benefit from new public/private sector partnerships. The question is which ones will we pursue?
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