August 1, 2019
The GDI is concerned about how different disinformation actors are abusing the internet ecosystem and the harms that this creates for our societies, economies and political processes. To break the network and mitigate these harms, we need policies that understand how the model of disinformation operates. We need to strip down the network to its basic parts and track who is spreading disinformation, how, and why.
This has led the GDI to recently undertake research and present a different approach to explain disinformation as a network phenomenon.
Based on these findings which we have just published here, we see a new model for disinformation in which it:
As we argued earlier on this blog, disinformation - or adversarial narrative conflict - is a form of fifth-generation warfare (5GW) that is carried out across a wide variety of platforms, from Facebook to Amazon to Voat.
For the GDI, adversarial narratives are defined as:
“Intentionally distributed narratives without a required chronology or sequence of content (“artefacts”), and which seek to enrage and divide internet users”.
When adversarial narratives are deployed, they create a series of smaller conflicts played out across the internet.
We see this clearly in the adversarial narrative conflict that has emerged on the issue of fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks in the US and elsewhere.
As we profiled here on the GDI blog and in our research, the “stop 5G” narrative is based on some factual legitimacy: it dates to comments about its regulation originally made in 2016 by the then Chair of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
But as the narrative has travelled downstream, fabricated and conspiratorial layers have been added on and linked up with other disinformation efforts - including the Flat Earth Movement.
This has happened even as the narrative has gone more mainstream, like getting amplified by RT and even getting picked up by Fox News, in the case of 5G. The recruitment of these more “mainstream” sources has effectively led to a conspiratorial “red pilling” of the narrative to the broader public.
This model of disinformation is critical for understanding how we measure disinformation risk and work to upend the underlying ecosystem. To be effective, we must have policies that operate across platforms and push for collective, coordinated responses. Otherwise, the current content and platform policies will continue to be ineffective against the problem.
Below are some preliminary recommendations for advancing work to diagnose, identify and prevent the new nature of disinformation campaigns:
These policy recommendations aim to move away from singular actions and misdiagnosed responses towards collective actions that break up the disinformation ecosystem.