News and information have long been the subjects of controversy. Since the decline of the “fact checker” in media conglomerates, criticism has sparked as to whether the pieces being reported are accurate, one-sided, or politically sparked. While we aren’t going to go into the political side of disinformation, as that would be an article unto itself, it is important to understand that the far-reaching impact of disinformation can be found anywhere, from the business world to the political one.
For those that don’t know the term “disinformation,” it’s false or misleading content intended to deceive or promote discord. For disinformation to have an impact, it has to be released to the general public, and the best way to do that is through either traditional or social media. According to Wasim Khaled, the CEO and Co-Founder of Blackbird.ai, “disinformation is dangerous because it’s designed to change people’s behavior by amplifying outrage around race, religion, and politics, exploiting the differences, usually, for some financial or political goal.” Disinformation comes in many forms — from a quick comment to a full story with graphics — and what appears to be “back up” evidence supporting it.
“Disinformation’s sophisticated propaganda and divide-and-conquer approach,” continues Khaled, “goes hand-in-hand with today’s connected society and a 24-hour news cycle. It has made it a dangerous assault on our society. If the problem is left to intensify, it will become impossible to discern fact from fiction.” Inasmuch, disinformation can be compared as being akin to a news-related cancer which intensifies over time if not stopped cold in its’ tracks.
The news cycle regularly reports that disinformation comes from Russia; however, that is not always true. While at times it may generate from there, in fact, it can come from anywhere, at any time, causing a deleterious impact wherever it reaches.
DISINFORMATION IS EVERYWHERE
Disinformation can also be found anywhere, at any time, in many forms. Blackbird’s CEO believes that, “disinformation is used so predominately because it is so effective. The fight against disinformation campaigns, helping to preserve consumer trust and brand loyalty, is an ongoing battle and will continue to be such.” Regardless of where you look, you can find examples of disinformation campaigns on any given day; some sophisticated and some not so sophisticated. For companies, this can impact brand reputation, corporate reputation, or even stock prices. It can impact everyone from the CEO of a company to a neighborhood mom to the Pope himself.
In 2015, Pope Francis fell victim to a disinformation story with widespread political repercussions. In fact, that story was so pervasive that the Pope himself began to understand and condemn disinformation. In the Pope’s own words, disinformation is “probably the greatest damage the media can do.” Further, he noted that the media’s obsession with scandal was out of control. As a result, the Pope suggested that, people could not make a “serious judgement” about any situation when they are provided “only a part of the truth and not the rest.”
DISCERNING THE TRUTH FROM THE MISTRUTH
As if this wasn’t complicated enough already, many times, purveyors of disinformation use fake videos as well to get our attention. The reason: fake videos produce a credible yet false sense of a story’s authenticity. These images, when given appropriate SEO, will run rampant at the top of the Google rankings. It is well known that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, believes this is a dangerous mechanism that must be stopped. In his letter the the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and others, he noted that, “a timely, convincing deep fake video of a candidate could hijack a race – and even alter the course of history.” If that isn’t a powerful reason to stop, or at least combat disinformation before it strikes, what is?
We are at the early stages, but not the very beginning, of companies deploying tactics to identify fake news, disinformation and other related items before they can have a major impact. Social media companies are deploying artificial intelligence filters and other related means for the sole purpose of enhancing the safety of what is on their networks. Governments around the world are looking into the massive problem of disinformation awareness and resolution, as are a myriad of companies.
For Blackbird, solving the problem of disinformation and the impact of it is at the core of their very foundation. As a mission-driven organization with a highly interdisciplinary team working round-the-clock to fight the onslaught of disinformation campaigns, every day brings new challenges. Khaled believes that companies will have to deploy tactics to identify, manage, prevent, and remediate from disinformation campaigns on an ongoing basis. It just makes sense. If you’re looking to find out how your audience is being manipulated by social media, memes, videos, and more, it’s time to take a hard look at Blackbird. Companies need to understand where disinformation is originating from and why; they need to know if these are brand-related conversations or something else, and finally, they need to truly understand the core of the intent behind them. Frankly, it’s yet another way to protect the bottom-line, whether that’s financial, emotional, political, or brand-related.