A classy commentary highly relevant to one of the most pressing and controversial issues engendered by the continuing rapid development of social/ new media – disinformation, or false information that is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organisation to a rival power or the media (Oxford definition).
This is to be distinguished from misinformation, which may not be intended to mislead (it could, for example, merely have resulted from ignorance or negligence).
For avoidance of doubt, the Oxford dictionary defines key terms as follows:
new media – means of mass communication using digital technologies such as the Internet.
social media – websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking [blogger’s note: therefore social media is a subset of new media]
By Kelly Born
Published Oct 2, 2017 on Project Syndicate
Concern about the proliferation of disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda has reached the point where many governments are proposing new legislation. But the solutions on offer reflect an inadequate understanding of the problem – and could have negative unintended consequences.
This past June, Germany’s parliament adopted a law that includes a provision for fines of up to €50 million (US$59 million) on popular sites like Facebook and YouTube, if they fail to remove “obviously illegal” content, such as hate speech and incitements to violence, within 24 hours. Singapore has announced plans to introduce similar legislation next year to tackle “fake news.”
In July, the US Congress approved sweeping sanctions against Russia, partly in response to its alleged sponsorship of disinformation campaigns aiming to influence US elections. Dialogue between the US Congress and Facebook, Twitter, and Google has intensified in the last few weeks, as clear evidence of campaign-ad purchases by Russian entities has emerged.
Such action is vital if we are to break the vicious circle of disinformation and political polarization that undermines democracies’ ability to function. But while these legislative interventions all target digital platforms, they often fail to account for at least six ways in which today’s disinformation and propaganda differ from yesterday’s.
Blogger and website owner Steven Ooi, a First Class Honours grad from NUS, retired from a distinguished 14-year career as an English and GP tutor in 2016.
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