Disinformation in a super election year — a global problem
Voters who vote in elections have their fingers stained with ink. In this super-election year, truth becomes a precious commodity and the struggle for sovereignty over the interpretation of reality takes center stage. Credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino
  • opinion Written by Jürgen Neyer (berlin, germany)
  • interpress service

According to EU High Representative Josep Borrell, “malign foreign powers”battle of stories‘. Disinformation is being disseminated with the aim of dividing society and undermining trust in state institutions. As announced by the German Federal Government.

Social media is said to be used to spread lies, disinformation, and deepfakes. Rapidly generate false information and create filter bubbles and echo chambers. It is also argued that artificial intelligence, deepfakes and personalized algorithms are building on existing uncertainties, reducing trust in democratic institutions.

Will this threaten the very foundations of democracy?

There are a number of major objections to the theory that the flood of social media misinformation poses a threat to democracy. First, there’s the term itself. We can distinguish between “disinformation” and simply “false information” based on whether it was malicious or not.

Misinformation is wrong. Disinformation is an outright lie. However, it is often difficult to draw the line between the two. Unless we are mind readers, how can we know if someone is acting with malicious intent?

The term “disinformation” is often a misnomer, and too often in the political arena it is applied to people who simply hold different views. This has been (and can still be) frequently observed in recent years on both sides of the debate over the dangers of coronaviruses.

There is still no empirically meaningful research demonstrating that disinformation, filter bubbles, and echo chambers have had a clear impact. on the contrary, most research The prevalence of disinformation is low and has little or no apparent impact. There even appears to be a link between intensive media use and differentiated opinions.

Never before has there been such a large amount of high-quality knowledge available at such a low cost.

It is also unclear whether disinformation campaigns can have a lasting effect. Even Lutz Gürner, head of strategic communications at the European External Action Service, which is responsible for the EU’s efforts to prevent Russian interference in European elections, has acknowledged this. nothing is actually known about thiss.

existingexperiential Research shows that misinformation makes up a small portion of the information available online, and even then, it reaches only a minority. Most users know well Self-proclaimed influencers and questionable websites should not necessarily be considered reliable sources.

Perhaps the most important counterargument is the fact that there has never been a time when high-quality knowledge was available in large quantities and at a lower cost than it is today. Easy and inexpensive digital access to media libraries, blogs, political talk shows on TV, a variety of daily newspapers and other magazines… it has never been easier for everyone to access information.

Forty years ago, most people lived in an information desert, reading one newspaper and sometimes watching the news on one TV channel. There is no lack of diversity in information. Since then, however, the advent of the internet and social media has greatly increased the majority in forming opinions, but often with increased uncertainty.

But it has shaped modern times since the 16th century, when the printing press was invented. Pluralism is the epistemological foundation of open societies. From this perspective, it is a condition of democracy, not a threat to it.

the problem lies elsewhere

However, it is important not to misunderstand these objections. In fact, there are dangers at a more abstract and even fundamental level. The core problem in ensuring a stable democracy is not that people lie or use information strategically to manipulate the opinions of others. It’s nothing new.

Rather, it is because in Europe today we are moving into a different arena of truth that is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile.

In an interview with Tucker Carlson, Russian President Vladimir Putin explained in detail why he considered Ukraine to belong to Russia. He wasn’t necessarily lying, he was expressing a subjective truth that may sound strange to many Western ears but is probably based on a historical construction that he truly believes.

Similarly, Trump supporters’ repeated rhetoric that Democrats are leading America into the abyss may not actually be a lie propagated by their better knowledge. What we should be concerned about is presumed honesty, not lies.

In modern society, indisputable truth has become a rare commodity, and the struggle for sovereignty over the interpretation of reality is central. Unfortunately, in this day and age, the myth that we would like to believe that there is only one fact-checkable truth is largely unfounded.

Liberals and conservatives, right and left, feminists and old white men must continue to dialogue with each other. Then you don’t have to be afraid of malicious foreign actors or even story battles.

In philosophical discussions, the fundamental difficulty in determining truth can be found in debates dating back to Aristotle about what actually constitutes truth. The general consensus today is that the truth content of propositions cannot be directly derived from reality (facts) and can only be verified by other propositions.

This dismantles the idea that some kind of correspondence can be determined between propositions and reality. This “coherence theory of truth” addresses the problem by understanding as true only those propositions that can be consistently applied to the larger context of propositions that we already accept as true. In other words, truth is a consistent complement to our world-building (and biases).

But when agreement with beliefs rather than facts becomes the primary criterion, truth risks becoming intersectional, subjective, and context-specific. What is true for one person will almost inevitably be false for another. How does this relate to the current debate on disinformation?

For the United States, that means, first, that the 100 million potential Trump supporters are not (only) liars or idiots. Rather, they live in a world that combines a firm belief in traditional values, a rejection of East Coast intellectualism, and a postmodern reluctance to chance. It is a philosophy of mutually reinforcing aspects that provide a fixed framework for classifying new information. When you don’t need fact checkers or experts.

How can and should we address such fundamental debates? Democracy is not a philosophical debate. There are always times when contradictory or harsh opinions collide. We must learn how to weather these storms while preventing the truth from fading.

This is not just a matter of fact-checking, but of continually updating society’s understanding of the foundations of truth. Liberals and conservatives, right and left, feminists and old white men must continue to dialogue with each other. Then you don’t have to be afraid of malicious foreign actors or even story battles.

Jurgen Neyer He is Professor of European and International Politics at the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) and Founding Director of the European New School of Digital Studies (ENS). He is currently researching the relationship between technological innovation and international conflict.

sauceIn: International Politics and Society (IPS), published by the World and European Policy Unit of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin.

IPS United Nations Secretariat

© Inter Press Service (2024) — All rights reservedSource: Interpress Service

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