Misinformation and Disinformation

We have of late experienced an accelerating infodemic of misinformation and disinformation.  The former relates to erroneous information that is forwarded without the sender realizing it is erroneous.  The latter concerns information that is intended to deceive.  In this post, I highlight a reading list of a dozen sources that, in effect, provide a short course on the topic.

What are the sources of the problem?  Human psychology (Grimes, 2019; Kahneman, 2011; Rosling, 2018) and sociology (Rose, 2022) underlie our tendencies to consume and accept deception.  Social media (Klein, 2020) has greatly exacerbated these inherent human proclivities.

Social media has increasingly become “weaponized” (Singer & Brooking, 2018; Zegart, 2022) by social, political, and military adversaries.  Media balance practices (Grimes, 2019) that attempt to report all points of view, even those blatantly incorrect, provides a ready audience for misinformation and disinformation.  The 1st Amendment of the US Constitution (Rosenberg, 2021) explicitly supports rights to lie.

How might we approach solutions of this problem?  Digital equity (Khanna, 2022) can provide a foundation, whereby everyone has access to state of the art digital capabilities.  Education focused on critical thinking (Grimes, 2019) and fostering mental immunity (Norman, 2021) needs much greater attention and investment.  There are also technology solutions (Espinosa, 2021; Kearns & Roth, 2019; Zegart, 2022).

We understand the problem and how to address it.  However, we need means to overcome the market and political forces that are benefitting from this situation.  Those who argue that the marketplace and society will self-correct for these extremes are either hopelessly naïve or among those profiting from the infodemic.

Key References

Espinosa, C. (2021). The Smartest Person in the Room: The Root Cause and New Solutions for Cybersecurity. Carson City, NV: Lioncrest Publishing.

Grimes, D.R. (2019). Good Thinking. Why Flawed Logic Puts Us All at Risk and How Critical Thinking Can Save the World. New York: The Experiment.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Kearns, M., & Roth, A. (2019). The Ethical Algorithm: The Science of Socially Aware Algorithm Design.  Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Khanna, R. (2022). Dignity in a Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Klein, E. (2020). Why We Are Polarized. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Norman, A. (2021). Mental Immunity: Infectious Ideas, Mind-Parasites, and the Search for a Better Way to Think. New York: Harper.

Rose, T. (2022). Collective Illusions: Conformity, Complicity, and the Science of Why We Make Bad Decisions. New York: Hachette.

Rosenberg, I. (2021). The Fight for Free Speech: Ten Cases that Define Our First Amendment Freedoms. New York: New York University Press.

Rosling, H. (2018). Factfulness: Ten Reasons We Are Wrong About the World — And Why Things are Better Than You Think.  New York: Flatiron Books.

Singer, P.W., & Brooking, E.T. (2018). Like War: The Weaponization of Social Media. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Zegart, A.B. (2022).  Spies, Lies & Algorithms: The History and Future of American Intelligence. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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