While misinformation and disinformation focus on the spread of false or inaccurate information, propaganda focuses on the spread of an idea or narrative intended to influence, similar to psychological or influence operations. When people think of propaganda, they typically think of elections and people creating content about a candidate that is meant to harm or help that candidate. Another form of propaganda is getting people to access information that they aren’t supposed to have. In countries like China or Russia that have controlled media, pushing information that is considered “censored” information by the government is a form of propaganda. This information could be news sources or simply information platforms.
Russia just announced that it would block Instagram, expanding its social media crackdown that had already cut off access to Facebook and restricted Twitter. Creating a way to allow Russians to access Instagram and other blocked social media and news sites will enable them to gain access to information that the government doesn’t censor. This ability to access censored information is propaganda in a non-traditional sense because it is meant to influence the viewer.
Every day, we are bombarded with propaganda – from political messaging to advertising campaigns, and there is no escaping it. We can combat the negative impacts of propaganda by increasing our awareness of the information around us and self-awareness about how we respond to it. Disinformation Nation (https://disinformation-nation.org/combat-propaganda) describes three effective strategies for combating propaganda centered around awareness and self-awareness. In brief, these strategies are
- When you feel yourself emotionally react to content (e.g., outrage, fear, vindication, etc.), pause. Check the facts. Consider whether the content is worth sharing before sharing it.
- Use multiple, differently biased fact-checking websites, including those on this list (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fact-checking_websites), but a simple web search will provide many other options as well.
- Be aware (and as much as possible in control) of how you are tracked online. All the major content platforms recommend content they believe you will click on based on your past behavior. When you curate what information they have about you, you can limit the amount of propaganda you are exposed to.
- User privacy valuing browsers (e.g., Brave and Firefox) and search engines (e.g., DuckDuckGo) to minimize your digital footprint.
- Expand the diversity of viewpoints that you expose yourself to. This allows you to see when the content that you agree with is trying to exploit your beliefs. All content is biased, so seeing the other biases on a topic will enable you to form well-rounded, intellectually robust opinions instead of simply adopting the opinions of others.
- Use resources like AllSides (https://www.allsides.com/), Our.News (https://our.news/?main), or Bias Finder (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/bias-finder/jojjlkfeofgcjeanbpghcapjcccbakop) to broaden the perspectives that you see on news stories.
***The next article in The New Battlefront 101 series will discuss how cyber attacks on institutions effect people beyond just the company or organization.
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