War and Disinformation
Recently I joined a Twitter space discussion on the effects of fake news at a community and national level. Again, due to COVID-19 these past years have seen an increase in fake news spreading. Hence many discussions today are on the outcome of what it caused. Mainly because during lockdowns and curfews there were no social interactions taking place and only online platforms connected us as a community. With that, all kinds of information, stories, and news on our health, security, and relations emerged. Some were authentic, while others were not.
Although, we are aware of the effects of what fake news does on a national level, where it causes mistrust, and suspicion leading to boycotts or violence between the public and government for example. And that, it is also an avenue for fraud to take place where targeted information leads victims to be swindled. Let us then look at fake news beyond the national level and to a global level asking ourselves, ‘how has fake news affected our geo-relations?’
Keep in mind — information is more valuable than money today, hence the rise of disinformation through fake news. It can control the decision-making process of people, their emotions, and their actions.
Today, there is a war happening in Europe and its effect is being felt globally — from the grain export crisis to gas and fuel prices increasing. And like with any war, public perception is key to gaining ground. Different parties involved in the war will look for support in different forms through — long-term friends, opposing enemies, trade blocs, and information. Likewise, superpower nations have had their democracies and institutions challenged through manipulation of fake news by other countries leading to election violence. While other superpowers have had their name tainted for the creation and spread of COVID-19. And groups known for global insecurity have used it to lure and recruit vulnerable youth.
Thus, disinformation is a tool of war. It discredits and influences how countries are perceived by the local and global audience digesting this information. It either creates enemies or supporters depending on the narrative being pushed. It disrupts the normal flow of governance and security. And although this strategy is not relatively new (propaganda), its spread to online platforms, however, becomes an issue if not checked especially if not handled as a potential security issue. It is then important for countries championing good governance to put in place a common strategy that will ensure the public has enough critical thinking skills and media literacy to grapple with and counter fake news and disinformation.