May 29, 2018  |  Updated June 18, 2018

Issue Brief: How Disinformation Impacts Politics and Publics

By Dean Jackson

EXPANDING THE ANALYTICAL FRAME

Disinformation—the use of half-truth and non-rational argument to manipulate public opinion in pursuit of political objectives—is a growing threat to the public sphere in countries around the world. The challenge posed by Russian disinformation has attracted significant attention in the United States and Europe; over time, observers have noted its role in “hybrid warfare,” its use to degrade public trust in media and state institutions, and its ability to amplify social division, resentment, and fear.

But Moscow is merely the most prominent purveyor of disinformation, not its sole source. Political actors around the world, ranging in size from state agencies to individuals, have found ways to exploit the economics of digital advertising and the fast-paced nature of the modern information ecosystem for their political advantage. Growing appreciation of the problem’s scale invites a shift in frame: from national security threat from a discrete actor to a broader appreciation of political-economic weaknesses in the contemporary information space.

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