Cyberwarfare and the battle against disinformation

Have you ever come across a social media post, read an article headline or watched a video that evokes such an intense emotional response — anger, sadness, excitement or disbelief — that you can’t help but add your comment, give it a like or share it with your own audience? We’ve all been there, done that. And with the vast amounts of content bombarding our everyday lives, we find little time to fact check the content we are pushing into our online communities.

In the most recent installment of UTO’s Technology in the Public Interest: An Author Series, Gillian “Gus” Andrews spoke about a relatively new yet widespread and detrimental threat to our society, sharing “disinformation is a matter of cybersecurity at this time.” And her takeaway was clear: all digital citizens need to find ways to be part of the solution.

Leading the charge, Andrews walked participants through a series of engaging activities and discussions that explored a variety of media techniques. These techniques — from the color and size of the font, to photoshopped images and provoking headlines — are used to influence how we consume content, invoking emotions that have users reacting quickly. Andrews focused the exercises on the upcoming elections, sharing explicit examples of how disinformation has been used to shape the electoral process now and in the near future. “For example, in some countries they used online bots to geo target a specific area and push out information that a particular voting booth was on fire in an effort to deter people from going out to vote,” she explained. 

Andrews wrapped up the discussion by answering a series of questions from the audience, closing with a reminder that as digital citizens, we have an obligation to be stewards of trust within our online communities. 

Looking for more? Read more about the series, and follow UTO on our social media channels (Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram) to keep up with future events and ways to engage.