Australian computer science researchers Kopp, Korb and Mills described the problem of “fake news” and potential measures to deal with this pandemic in the digital media.
A submission to a parliamentary inquiry in Canberra claims that Australia is not immune to the global pandemic of fake news, deception, cyber-attacks, social media botnet attacks, and other digital platform hosted mischief, that has engulfed most Western democracies.
According to recently published research, to date Australia has not been subjected to the kind of focused high intensity multi-pronged state-sponsored information attack campaign that the UK was subjected to during the Brexit referendum, the US was subjected to during the 2016 presidential election, and Ukraine has been subjected to continuously since the covert invasion of Crimea by Russia.
However, Australia has been exposed to large volumes of “fake news”, and this appears to be most frequently the result of Australian mass media and social media users redistributing deceptive “fake news” content that was being widely distributed in the global mass and social media.
“There is no reason to believe that Australia would cope any better than the UK, US or even Ukraine were it subjected to the same style of state-sponsored information attack campaign,” said in the submission.
The potential damage produced by “fake news” can be significant, and it should be treated as a genuine threat to the proper functioning of democratic societies.
The researchers presented an analysis of the distribution of fake news in social networks and in world media. They also gave examples of influencing public opinion through propaganda and fake news.
Interesting example, involving state sponsored propaganda rather than partisan bias induced filtering, has been the adoption of Russian propaganda tropes by many Western media organisations reporting on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Most Western media organisations, and many Ukrainian media organisations, continue to label the Russian mercenary and regular military forces deployed in Eastern Ukraine as “rebels” or “separatists”, reflecting Russian propaganda disseminated widely in global media during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014. That five years later even “reputable” media organisations in the West continue to use deceptive labels coined by Russia’s very skilled propagandists in 2014 illustrates a fundamental and pervasive breakdown in media professionalism.
Another related example involved New York Times journalists Broad and Sanger speculating that North Korea acquired its ballistic missile rocket engine technology from Ukraine, who built the rocket motors in question during the Cold War, despite the publicly known fact that Russia had hundreds of these rocket engines in mothballs, and Ukraine only a very small number in museum exhibits. What followed was a major propaganda offensive by the Russians to exploit this at Ukraine’s expense, and very loud public complaints of bias by the Ukrainians. The motives of the journalists remain to be explained, the misleading report was never retracted.
In the submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, you can itself will get acquainted with by methodology of the “Fake news” problems.