The ‘Weaponization of Information’ in a Post-Truth World

The world is changing. (I know, deep thoughts right?) The world is always changing! However, the changes seem a bit different in the past few years. Explaining 1997 to 1977 is doable, but try to explain the current landscape to someone from 1997. (Side note: Remember the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “The Impression that I Get”? Classic tune.) Heck, explaining 2017 to myself in 2015 would be difficult. Why is that? Technology advancement? It’s possible. Modern electronic communication continually advances and facilitates information sharing instantly and with broader participation. (Like when you looked up “The Impression that I Get.” You’re welcome.) However, technology isn’t the full answer. The more likely answer for the changes we see is the methods in which individuals use that technology.

Unfortunately, as scientific progress continues to accelerate, disruptive forces seek to use that progress for nefarious purposes. (Yes, that “Nigerian Prince” is disruptive, but I’m talking about more significant, policy affecting forces.) “Fake News” is disseminated for profit or political advantage. Extremists develop venues to spread hate. Foreign actors can influence domestic policy. Bots, echo chambers, and disinformation are the cost that comes with the freedom that is information sharing. How can dialogues be established when cyber space is continuously flooded with untruths?

In order to explore this issue, the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD), in coordination with the Department of State and Stanford’s Hoover Institution, assembled a group of private sector, government, and academic experts to discuss the “latest trends in research on strategic communication in digital spaces.” The results of that workshop were recently published in a report consisting of fourteen essays divided into three thematic sections: Digital’s Dark Side, Disinformation, and Narratives. The goal is to create an atmosphere of shared interest through shifting communication patterns.

The Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL) shares this goal through continued exploration on topics related to the digital space. With featured topics such as Cyber Crime and National Security, Cyber Infrastructure Protection, and Cyber Policy, HSDL offers a deep compilation on cyber space and it’s effect on public diplomacy. (A deep compilation of music from 1997 will have to be found elsewhere.) (Some materials may require HSDL login.)