21 votes

What do we actually know about modern disinformation?

This is an intentionally broad question with a lot of different angles. It's also a question that's naturally hard to get solid grounding on now that nearly everything gets painted as false, misleading, or disingenuous by at least someone.

Normally in my ask threads I throw out a lot of potential talking points, but in this case I want to leave the question open, for people to take it in whichever direction they wish: What do we actually know about modern disinformation, especially related to (but not limited to) online spaces? What are some real, genuine takeaways we can hang our hats on?

Also, a point of clarity: disinformation here does NOT strictly refer to high-level government propaganda and can include something as low-level as, say, an influencer not disclosing product sponsorship to their followers. I'm interested in distributed falsehoods of any caliber.

14 comments

  1. [3]
    thundergolfer
    Link
    Chomsky and Herman's propoganda model is still more or less a comprehensive view of modern propaganda and disinformation. It was published in 1988, but even now in the social media age it holds...

    Chomsky and Herman's propoganda model is still more or less a comprehensive view of modern propaganda and disinformation. It was published in 1988, but even now in the social media age it holds true.

    Much ink has been spilled over the 'fake news' problem, and it is almost astonishing how nearly all of it I've seen is written as if the author has never ever heard of Manufacturing Consent, much less realises how it fits into this 'new' world of Twitter trolls.

    12 votes
    1. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      This book has been languishing on my to-read list for well over a decade now. I think it's high time I finally prioritize it and actually give it my attention.

      This book has been languishing on my to-read list for well over a decade now. I think it's high time I finally prioritize it and actually give it my attention.

      2 votes
      1. thundergolfer
        Link Parent
        The part of it laying out the propoganda model is only like 50-100 pages. I've said elsewhere on this site that it's got the highest (information / words) ratio of anything I've read.

        The part of it laying out the propoganda model is only like 50-100 pages. I've said elsewhere on this site that it's got the highest (information / words) ratio of anything I've read.

        1 vote
  2. [3]
    Deimos
    Link
    This is probably my favorite thing written recently about disinformation: The Toxins We Carry - Disinformation is polluting our media environment. Facts won’t save us. I think it's fascinating to...

    This is probably my favorite thing written recently about disinformation: The Toxins We Carry - Disinformation is polluting our media environment. Facts won’t save us.

    I think it's fascinating to consider disinformation as something more like pollution, where the intent behind creating or spreading it doesn't necessarily matter and it can still have major "downstream" effects, or even make the problem worse by trying to expose it.

    8 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      This was a really great read. Its overarching ecology metaphor is both resonant and illuminating.

      This was a really great read. Its overarching ecology metaphor is both resonant and illuminating.

      4 votes
    2. cfabbro
      Link Parent
      Offtopic, but that has to be the narrowest article I have ever seen outside a mobile site. On my ultrawide screen it feels like it barely takes up 1/8th of the width. Thank God for Firefox reader...

      Offtopic, but that has to be the narrowest article I have ever seen outside a mobile site. On my ultrawide screen it feels like it barely takes up 1/8th of the width. Thank God for Firefox reader mode. :/

      3 votes
  3. Death
    Link
    As far as I can tell disinformation has been around for a long time, but the more recent development is both in how fast they can spread and how fast it can find new promoters through the power of...

    As far as I can tell disinformation has been around for a long time, but the more recent development is both in how fast they can spread and how fast it can find new promoters through the power of the internet. Previously both deliberate and accidental misinformation was still limited by geography, as both word-of-mouth and printed information needed to be physically transported. Nowadays a bad or deliberately false piece of information can get signal boosted by pretty much anyone with the necessary access.

    7 votes
  4. [6]
    whisper
    Link
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyop0d30UqQ Vladislav Surkov's "Nonlinear Warfare"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyop0d30UqQ
    Vladislav Surkov's "Nonlinear Warfare"

    5 votes
    1. [3]
      cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Speaking of Adam Curtis, his classic documentaries The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares are well worth watching IMO, as is his more recent HyperNormalisation. And another person who...

      Speaking of Adam Curtis, his classic documentaries The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares are well worth watching IMO, as is his more recent HyperNormalisation.

      And another person who has similarly been studying and breaking down disinformation over the decades is Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media is a decent introduction to him and his ideas, but ultimately it's his books on politics that I would recommend reading, and his lectures and interviews that are also well worth seeking out IMO.

      6 votes
      1. [2]
        pvik
        Link Parent
        Thanks for suggesting those documentaries! I think this link for HyperNormalization would be better: https://archive.org/details/HyperNormalisation (The youtube link you posted seems to be 6...

        Thanks for suggesting those documentaries!

        I think this link for HyperNormalization would be better: https://archive.org/details/HyperNormalisation
        (The youtube link you posted seems to be 6 minutes shorter than the version found on BBC).

        2 votes
        1. cfabbro
          Link Parent
          NP... and neat, I never even thought to check archive.org for them. Apparently Manufacturing Consent, the book and documentary, are on there too.

          NP... and neat, I never even thought to check archive.org for them. Apparently Manufacturing Consent, the book and documentary, are on there too.

          1 vote
    2. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      I recently read Peter Pomerantsev's Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible which is about Russian surreality. This clip is a good and succinct companion piece to it. Thanks for sharing.

      I recently read Peter Pomerantsev's Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible which is about Russian surreality. This clip is a good and succinct companion piece to it. Thanks for sharing.

      4 votes
      1. whisper
        Link Parent
        Awesome, I was unaware there was a book discussing this philosophy. Adding it to my list.

        Awesome, I was unaware there was a book discussing this philosophy. Adding it to my list.

        3 votes
  5. suspended
    Link
    From a very basic understanding, I've always understood deliberate (i.e. consciously aware ) disinformation strategies as ways in which to gain more political power and/or wealth.

    From a very basic understanding, I've always understood deliberate (i.e. consciously aware ) disinformation strategies as ways in which to gain more political power and/or wealth.

    3 votes