Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward
Share Share

Information Disorder is Everyone's Problem — Including Big Business

Joan Donovan, research director of Harvard University's Shorenstein Center, says that "Disinformation has become an industry, which means the financial incentives and the political gains are now aligned." That spells trouble beyond politics. In other words, if you don't think you're at risk, think again.

In just a year, information disorder has gone from an issue primarily facing journalists and politicians to a slow-rolling crisis. Groups like QAnon now have highly elevated visibility beyond just politics, and vaccination disinformation extends far beyond the healthcare sphere. 

Consider what happened to
Wayfair last summer. Operating in a low-conflict category, the furniture retailer found itself in the middle of a viral QAnon conspiracy, resulting in a slew of alarming disinformation, public outcry, and reputational hits. And just this month, consulting firm Secretariat filed a defamation suit that claims a rival company launched a fraudulent misinformation campaign against them on employee review site Glassdoor. 

To add, we’ve seen CEO 
statements that were never made. Company-hosted events that never existed. And frightening scandals based on videos without context. Whether it’s misinformation, narrative conflict, deep fakes, or even unfortunate ad placement, the danger for companies and communities they serve is too big to be ignored.

 There's no way around it. Media disorder makes our job as communicators harder. We must factor in how disinformation campaigns work, ideologies or incentives behind narrative conflicts, and technical resources to help strategists prepare for (and when possible, avoid) potentially catastrophic effects.

Wasim Khaled, the founder of 
Blackbird AI, a platform to help decode inner workings of narrative conflicts, outlines the risks: “Hostile nation-states, unethical entrepreneurs, and amateur anarchists have upended elections, damaged corporate and personal reputation. Threat actors create bot networks, impersonate news outlets and generate synthetic public outcry to create distrust among target audiences. The goal of disinformation is to create confusion and division.”

Information disorder is not only caused by bad actors and foreign opportunists. It spreads because of unwitting people like you and me, and we all have a responsibility. Companies included. 

So what are we doing about it? We're pulling together the necessary expertise to understand the risks and how to prepare for them. Much like movie studios had to imagine a system connecting disparate professionals, we're working to design new
collaborations to adapt to a changing, complex space. Disinformation is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Chris Perry


As always, if you find this newsletter valuable we would be grateful if you encouraged others to sign up by directing them here. 
What We're Reading
Media Intelligence
Can "Inoculation" Build Broad-Based Resistance to Misinformation?
By Jigsaw
A new approach borrows from biomedical science to help people resist persuasion by misinformation. Inoculation protects people against false information by teaching them to spot and refute a misleading claim. Inoculation messages can build up people’s resistance or “mental antibodies” to encountering misinformation in the future, similar to the way vaccines create antibodies that fight against future infection.
Media Intelligence
Words Have Lost Their Common Meaning
By John McWhorter, The Atlantic

The nature of how words change, compounded by the effects of our social-media bubbles, has resulted in maddeningly confusing debates over word usage. Just as we can no longer agree on common realities, echo chambers have many disagreeing on the meaning of seemingly standard words like equality, justice, and racism. 

New Influence
LinkedIn Adds 'Creator Mode' to Help More of Its Users Turn Influencers
By Ann-Marie Alcántara, The Wall Street Journal

LinkedIn is inviting users to what it is calling “creator mode,” a setting designed to encourage users to post more of their own original content, perhaps with an eye to becoming influencers, or in corporate-speak, thought leaders. Will the new feature encourage more people to post on the platform, or simply increase the amount of "spammy" posts?

Data Ethics
Google Ends Cookies and the Ad Industry Has Alternatives
By Aoife White, Bloomberg
Google upended the sector when it announced plans last year to end third-party cookies that advertisers rely on to track users and measure the performance of digital marketing campaigns. Digital advertisers are pushing alternatives, including an anonymous identifier called SWAN that lets people control what ads they see on the web. 
New Influence
Minneapolis Staff Worried About Hiring 'Influencers' During Derek Chauvin Trial, Emails Show
By Samantha Cole and Jospeh Cox, Vice
The city of Minneapolis set aside $12,000 to hire six influencers from different racial and ethnic backgrounds to amplify information about the trial to communities that the city believes would not be reached by traditional media and the city's own outreach effort. Despite the well-intentioned effort to get news out more quickly, many worried that calling these messengers "influencers" could be seen as propaganda.
Media Intelligence
The Mysterious User Editing a Global Open-Source Map in China's Favor 
By Vittoria Elliot and Nilesh Christopher, Rest of The World 

Open-source tools underpin technology used by millions of people, but they’re also vulnerable to abuse. For example, OpenStreetMap (OSM), an open-source mapping platform that relies on an army of unpaid volunteers, is being manipulated to advance national interests like territory disputes — sometimes with dangerous consequences. 

New Influence
YouTube is Experimenting with Hiding Dislikes to Protect Creator's Well-Being 
By Ian Carlos Campbell, The Verge

In response to mental health concerns aimed across social platforms, YouTube has announced it’s experimenting with hiding dislikes. The hope is to discourage “dislike mobs” from deliberately downvoting videos from creators and channels. The experiment is similar to other attempts platforms like Instagram have taken to nip targeted attacks in the bud.

Emerging Technology
Discord Challenges Clubhouse With New Audio Feature 'Stage Channels'
By James Hale, tubefilter
Discord is challenging Clubhouse. The voice/text messaging service — which recently hit 140 million monthly active users and raised $100 million in fresh funding — today dropped a new audio feature called Stage channels. Like Clubhouse, Stage channels allow a large number of users (in Discord’s case 1,000) to congregate in a single audio room, with some users in speaking roles and others as listening audience members. One notable difference from buzzy, invite-only Clubhouse is that Stage channels aren’t events that any registered user can join. 
Deep Take
Mitigating Medical Misinformation: A Whole-of-Society Approach to Countering Span, Scams, and Hoaxes
By Joan Donovan, Brian Friedberg, Gabrielle Lim, Nicole Leaver, Jennifer Nilsen and Emily Dreyfuss,
 The Media Manipulation Casebook

Media manipulation is a sociotechnical process, whereby motivated actors leverage conditions or features within an information ecosystem to manipulate the public using the press, networked technology systems, and influential organizations to advance their agenda. The public health sector, along with a coalition of civil servants, media workers, technology companies, and civil society organizations, must understand and respond to the problem of medical media manipulation, specifically how it spreads online. The Media Manipulation Casebook presents a supplementary research-and-response method. 

Copyright © 2021 Weber Shandwick

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp