We’ve all heard of the fake news phenomena, especially over the last few years. As understood by the general public, fake news spreads false stories shared on social media that intend to sway someone’s opinion about something, usually within the political sphere. However, fake news isn’t a new concept; rather, it is propaganda reimagined.
Propaganda intends to manipulate public opinion about something, either by publishing misleading information or outright fabrication and lies. This has remained a matter of national security as those lies become used to intimidate and misinform voters, usually by those who do not have their best interests at heart, such as an enemy state.
These days, with technology and social media making for a much smaller world, it’s easy to share information across borders and sway anyone’s opinion on a matter.
Fake News vs. Cybersecurity
There are a few things to understand about propaganda that makes combating its spread very difficult. The biggest problem involves the discernment of real news versus fake news stories, leaving room for misleading or accidentally incorrect stories. Without a trustworthy source to provide irrefutable proof, this task is difficult. Propaganda feeds on fear and public belief. If a news story sounds believable, then the public will question it less.
Educating the public on legitimate sourcing will help combat this type of propaganda. Most fake news spreads by using misleading headlines or click-bait articles. More often than not, the article will refute the headline itself or show enough errors to indicate a faulty source. This isn’t always the case, but reading an article and cross-referencing information can go a long way.
How Propaganda Impacts Cybersecurity
Difficult situations occur when information comes across as truthful yet misleading. Certain phrasing can leave information up for interpretation. This occurs using data from surveys and public polls, a context that does carry proof. No matter the statistic, most parties involved can spin the information in favor of themselves. This leads to truthful information with deceptive intent, giving true meaning to the term “alternative facts.”
Because of these situations, cybersecurity can’t do much to attack propaganda at its source, not without readers looking up the information on spaces dedicated to the truth. Cybersecurity has the power to get rid of false sites and stories that have known connections to criminals or political enemies of the state. Information can be harmful, such as hoaxes used to cause mass grief or panic. These and similar actors are the ones cybersecurity seeks to eliminate.
How Cybersecurity Impacts Propaganda
At this point, many people realize fake news and propaganda are a problem in the modern world. Services exist to debunk false stories and seek to punish sites that publish them, such as social media. No social media site wants to face legal trouble, so most take steps to regulate themselves, such as disposing of bots and handling reports from suspicious accounts. Twitter and Reddit, for example, have done this a few times in recent years, always leading to more awareness about the issue.
Cybersecurity professionals have also taken steps the better inform the public. The Cyber Future Foundation was built with the idea of keeping the internet’s information pathways as clean as possible while also doubling down on identity fraud. Led by a council of representatives, the CFF tries to provide spaces where people can collaborate with truthful information as well as providing education for research skills.
Everyone has read and believed propaganda at some point; no doubt there are some people who still believe already debunked stories. This type of fake news goes beyond the political landscape, invading popular culture in the hopes of getting attention and clicks and swaying the demographic to believe an untruth or support a particular cause.
Sometimes, fake news may start as a lie and later become true. Propaganda won’t stop just because we realize it exists.
As long as some people believe a fake source, the lies will continue being distributed. For every problem, though, people and agencies recognize and work more diligently to identify and root out the perpetrators. This step in the right direction helps regulate the truth without infringing on free speech.
We don’t know what the next United States election cycle will bring, but we’re more prepared than before.