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Disinformation All the Way Down


In this article, Peter Pomerantsev argues that “our current media model creates a demand for disinformation”, and, accordingly, that construing the disinformation threat in terms of ‘foreign’ or ‘domestic’ cause misses the point. Social networks are not inherently calibrated to uphold truth or accuracy—their entirely amoral goal is to maximize the time users spend on the platforms, achieved through ever more precise AI-driven audience targeting. Absent from this design is any notion of building an ethical or deliberative political information space, which is so crucial to the health or indeed survival of democratic society. Facts, trust, and civic cohesion have become casualties in the insatiable pursuit of advertising revenues. MR

Why is this important?

Mr. Pomerantsev argues that until we manage to adapt to this new information and media reality—for there is no going back!—and develop strategies to regulate and/or otherwise constrain its worst excesses, fighting back against specific disinformation campaigns is a largely futile exercise. Suspending Russian troll accounts and deleting Russian-linked political ads—while undoubtedly appropriate—is merely a bandaid for this far deeper and more pernicious problem. Today it is Russia (and ISIS, and the alt-right) adroitly exploiting the vulnerabilities and blind spots of our brave new information reality—but who will it be tomorrow? And how much worse is it going to get, in terms of the technological capabilities to produce ever more convincing and undetectable deceptions? The urgent challenge before us is to reform information markets so they aren’t democracy’s Achilles heel. MR


Peter Pomerantsev

Publication Date

February 27, 2018