Disinformation and information harms

We primarily use the term, Disinformation.  The DISARM Framework does also encompass a variety of other terms used in different settings, reflecting slight changes in nuance and meaning.

These include Misinformation, Malinformation, Influence operations (a broader term, as malicious actors exert influence using facts as well as falsehoods), Inauthentic Behavior (a term coined by Facebook in 2016), Cognitive Security (addressing the deliberate disruption of individual/community reasoning and coherence), and Information Disorder (focus of a 2021 Aspen Institute Commission, originally coined by First Draft in 2020).

Misinformation can often be disinformation that is unwittingly passed on, but initially published by malicious actors.  A question, for many, is ‘who are these people?’ and ‘what do they stand to gain?’

The answer is that they include: state actors seeking to gain geo-political advantage; others seeking financial gain; and those who disrupt and damage our collective security, democracy or health for notoriety or being caught under the influence of cult-like conspiracy theories.

Disinformation is not new.  HOWEVER, the internet and the ‘big tech’ platforms are enabling the spread and hyper-targeting of disinformation at an unprecedented scale.

Internet-enabled disinformation at scale is relatively new, but a common view is emerging.  Many papers have already been written.  We offer one example here — a paper from the University of Chicago — which paints a helpful picture, including an outline of themes, parallels and partnerships.

Disinformation and its related terms comprise a fundamental issue for humankind. It also undermines our ability to collectively address other existential challenges. It requires urgent and effective collective action.