Does information war concern everyone?

Information war refers to a systematic warfare where target’s opinions, believes, emotions and values are intentionally influenced by manipulating information and its course. The aim is to cause turmoil and weaken the enemy. Also, some countries use information warfare to steer public opinions about them to a more acceptable direction. The manipulation can happen through various platforms, like governmental communication, internet forums or traditional media. Therefore the battlefield can be any channel or medium transmitting information or data.

Blocking data transmissions, disabling logistic networks, cyberattacks or propaganda are all forms of implementing information war. It’s not a new phenomenon, but our networked society together with digitalisation and social media have enabled new powerful tools and approaches to wage war against the enemy. It might feel rather implausible that Finnish media would feed us manipulated news and information, but at the same time the Internet is full of unverified information from varying sources. For instance, one might consume and share manipulated content or disinformation without even realising.

Social media is an effective weapon in information warfare because through it disinformation reaches large groups of people very easily. Practically anyone can produce and share disinformation that lives on over the Internet. Hateful and provoking content divides people and makes it easier to create chaos. Thus, hate speech in social media is a significant factor in causing confusion and manipulating opinions of masses. Steering the discussion to a certain direction with false headlines or provoking statements might simply be an attempt to change the ruling opinions: producing controversial content can steal attention from some other unpleasant information.

So, information war is inevitably part of today’s world. Since the manipulation is happening in various forms and fields, individual citizens will probably get caught up in it as well. Is it then necessary for civils to kick against the manipulative actions and is it even possible to have any real impact on the matter? Probably the most practical thing to do is to be conscious of the fact that someone might be trying to manipulate one’s thoughts and actions. Alongside an open society and transparent communication, critical thinking and media literacy are the most effective everyday tools to range against information war. Anybody consuming news, using Facebook, Twitter or even messaging apps should question the validity of the content one sees, reads, writes and shares.