50 Resources and five editions later (US2020 Disinformation news, ed. 5)

Domestic disinformation & delegitimisation

Since the last edition, of course, the election has been and gone. The resources I’ve Hubbed since then reinforced the trends identified and explored in previous editions.

America has mainstreamed disinformation against itself

That was not a major theme this time around, at least for me. Instead, a theme running through all editions was how America has mainstreamed disinformation against itself since 2016. Two aspects of American responsibility were explored further in edition 2:

  • how America’s domestic flashpoints make it vulnerable to foreign disinformation
  • the much greater impact of #domestic sources of disinformation.

‘foreign meddling’ can only exploit and exacerbate a society’s existing flashpoints

However, another key theme from the first two editions was that while the actual impact of foreign meddling might be low, the fear of foreign meddling, often magnified by the media, can be much worse. Just as an immune system’s over-response can do more damage than the virus it’s fighting, the knowledge that disinformation exists can convince people that truth is unknowable, driving them into identity politics.

the knowledge that disinformation exists can convince people that truth is unknowable

While for edition 2 I needed to introduce the #domestic tag, for edition 3 I had to introduce another to describe the primary focus of Trump’s domestic disinformation campaign: to #delegitimise the election results.

post-election period offers a “better chance to push more Americans to extremes than ever before”

If someone did make such a calculation, they may be regretting it today - the polls were wrong (again): 70 million Americans voted for Trump despite his appallingly callous failure to tackle the pandemic. While there is yet no strong evidence of a post-election foreign disinformation push, the delegitimisation campaign drama is still evolving, so it may be too early to call.

How did mainstream media cope?

When it comes to tackling foreign interference, an interesting DFRLab analysis recently showed the #media still play a major role:

Social media and Censorship

The approach taken by #social media platforms evolved quickly in the few weeks covered by my enewsletter.

Next stop: Fediverse?

The most interesting consequence of the whole #censorship story, however, has been the conservatives’ flight to alternatives, where posts about MAGA, #QAnon and anti-semitic theories rein free, unhampered by factchecking:

Hopefully it will be a more optimistic topic… the sheer awfulness of American politics right now is heartbreaking

As I wrote a few years ago, there’s only one thing that could be worse:



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