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Americans, Like Swedes, Need Help Telling Fact From Fiction

7 4 1
27.05.2022

The U.S. government has suspended the activities of its disastrously launched Disinformation Governance Board. An outfit with such an unfortunate name and ill-defined mission was bound to fail. That doesn’t mean the idea was wrong—just poorly conceived. Countries need to address the avalanche of disinformation and misinformation that leads to disasters like the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection and attacks on COVID-19 vaccination sites. Some have already launched bodies that do the work that the Disinformation Governance Board was supposed to do in an effective and professional way. The United States can learn from them in its next attempt.

On May 2, as news agencies reported about the launch of the new Disinformation Governance Board, it was already obvious that nobody really knew what the advisory group’s mission or competencies were. The board “will immediately begin focusing on misinformation aimed at migrants, a problem that has helped to fuel sudden surges at the U.S. southern border in recent years,” the Associated Press reported while Politico explained that the board would “coordinate countering misinformation related to homeland security, focused specifically on irregular migration and Russia.” The U.S. public though was none the wiser as to what it meant, especially since the government provided little detail. Documenting disinformation, misinformation, or both? Analyzing it? Launch U.S. counter-messaging strategies? This lack of clarity led activists to accuse the government of creating a “Ministry of Truth” and wanting to police free speech in the United States. Three weeks later, the board had been suspended.

But as the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6—fueled by conspiracy theories about the election—made painfully clear, Americans need help understanding what information is accurate and what is not. The same thing goes for many other issues: the safety of vaccines, former U.S. President Barack Obama’s birthplace, and the war in Ukraine. This isn’t a matter of politics but of simple fact: Vaccines work well, if not perfectly; Obama was born in Hawaii; and Russia is committing serious crimes in Ukraine. Fighting disinformation (the willful sharing of falsehoods) and misinformation (the accidental sharing of it) has nothing to do with policing people’s opinions. For a healthy political landscape, citizens need accurate information—and they can only get it if untruths are detected and stopped. That goes double when disinformation comes from a hostile foreign actor.

The U.S. government has suspended the activities of its disastrously launched Disinformation Governance Board. An outfit with such an unfortunate name and ill-defined mission was bound to fail. That doesn’t mean the idea was wrong—just poorly conceived. Countries need to address the avalanche of disinformation and misinformation that leads to disasters like the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection and attacks on COVID-19 vaccination sites. Some have already launched bodies that do the work that the Disinformation Governance Board was supposed to do in an effective and professional way. The United States can learn from them in its next attempt.

On May 2, as news agencies reported about the launch of the new Disinformation Governance Board, it was already obvious that nobody really knew what the advisory group’s mission........

© Foreign Policy


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