Information is always out there, and it always will be. The question is, whether it is accurate and factually correct, or whether it has been tweaked just so much that it seems accurate; but, in fact, is not. When it isn’t accurate, and it is out in the public purview, it is called disinformation. Disinformation has been around for a long time but in the past, the “fact checker” in media operations had the job of checking it, finding out what was accurate, and of course, what was not. For those may still be puzzled by this, it is important to understand that disinformation happens in every vertical, from political to business, from medicine to education, and beyond.
Disinformation, by definition, and according to the dictionary, is “false or misleading content intended to deceive or promote discord.” In other words, for disinformation to have an impact, it is traditionally distributed through traditional or social media, so a wider audience can be impacted by it. Wasim Khaled, the CEO and Co-Founder of Blackbird.ai believes that, “disinformation is dangerous because it’s designed to change people’s behavior by amplifying outrage around race, religion, and politics, exploiting the differences, usually, for some financial or political goal.” And, it comes in many varieties, from a full story to a graphic to a short comment – all of which appear as if they are “accurate” when, however, they are not.
“Disinformation’s sophisticated propaganda and divide-and-conquer approach,” continues Khaled, “goes hand-in-hand with today’s connected society and a 24-hour news cycle. It has made it a dangerous assault on our society. If the problem is left to intensify, it will become impossible to discern fact from fiction.” In fact, disinformation, once it is out there, is like a runaway train which can only be stopped or slowed down by sophisticated experts on the subject.
Today, we regularly see the news reporting that disinformation comes from Russia; however, it is only one place it generates from. In fact, it can come from anywhere, at any time, through any outlet. This is, in fact, possibly one of the scariest things about it.
LOOK AROUND YOU – It’s everywhere
Unfortunately, disinformation is everywhere around us – from the checkout line at the supermarket to the national news broadcast. It’s on YouTube, Facebook, and all social media. It’s even found on billboards throughout the world. It is so prominent that sometimes we don’t even notice it, even though we need to be aware of the information we are digesting. Blackbird’s CEO believes that “disinformation is used so predominately because it is so effective. The fight against disinformation campaigns, helping to preserve consumer trust and brand loyalty, is an ongoing battle and will continue to be such.” It is easy to forget the tremendous impact disinformation can have on us, — but on companies, it is far worse; think about it this way: it can impact everything from brand reputation to corporate reputation to product reputation to even stock prices. And, whether we realize it or not, it affects everyone — from the customer to the CEO to the stock owner. In fact, you may find it interesting to know that even the Pope himself has even been a victim of disinformation!
It was early 2015 when Pope Francis fell victim to a disinformation story; one that had far-reaching political repercussions. The impact of that campaign was so great that the Pope himself began to condemn disinformation campaigns. In his own words, the Pope clearly stated that disinformation is “probably the greatest damage the media can do.” He also noted that because the media is so obsessed with scandal, it is actually helping spread disinformation on a regular basis.
So how do we tell the truth from the disinformation?
So, now that you understand what disinformation is, it’s time to learn about another form it comes in: the video. While most people would never think that a video was chock full of disinformation, there is a very specific reason why those that spread disinformation elect to use this means. Fake videos do two things; first, they make stories look credible and second, they help the rankings of said stories when produced properly. Unfortunately, disinformation videos, when given SEO, show up higher and higher on the Google (and other) rankings. In other words, you see them faster and far more frequently and as a result, — and it creates a false sense of accuracy. This is a problem is so pervasive that everyone from Publishers to CEOs to even the House Intelligence Committee are looking into it.
Speech upon speech by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, discusses just how dangerous disinformation is. He believes it is a problem that is growing, and he is not wrong. In a relatively recent letter the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and others, Schiff said, “a timely, convincing deep fake video of a candidate could hijack a race – and even alter the course of history.” The message he is sending is clear: disinformation must be stopped before it gets out.
Blackbird was founded for the purpose of identifying and solving the problem of disinformation, and the impact of it, from its very genesis. Their highly interdisciplinary team works diligently, round-the-clock, and in real-time, to find, fight, and prevent disinformation campaigns. Khaled knows companies must deploy tactics to identify, manage, prevent, and remediate from disinformation campaigns, much the same way they have to protect themselves against cyber threats. Whether you’re in the public eye, or simply creating a product/service that is, taking the risk of being manipulated by social media, memes, videos, and more is not really an option. That’s where companies like Blackbird come in. To understand where disinformation comes from and why it is happening means giving the power back to the organization, (or the person), it truly belongs to. Understanding the intent behind it means being able to tweak your message, and your work, to ensure you aren’t subject to it as much. And, most importantly, at the end of the day, it’s a great way to protect your bottom-line, however, you define it.