Disinformation is Solvable
We have this ideal of free speech, which is that there's a marketplace of ideas out there that more speeches always better because the good ideas will win out in the end. It's a kind of fundamentally optimistic idea. It comes originally from the political philosopher, John Stewart Mills and his book on Liberty in the nineteenth century, and then it Kinda comes into Supreme Court land in the twentieth century but it often turns out not to be true there various eras in history where propaganda and false ideas have actually won the day in politics you can think about the Nazis you can think about times of Soviet, union communism other nine, thousand, nine, hundred examples of. Fascism and more recent governments in places like Brazil and India, where disinformation has really one out and so I think that we are flirting with that possibility in a scary way in the United States right now the fact is marketplace of ideas was always a pretty shaky concept and so free speech is really important to our democracy but we need I think to reconceptualise how we think about it and how we protect it in a way that really protects the speech that supports democracy instead of threatening it too. So we get our terms clear sale little about how disinformation with a D. differs from misinformation with an m yeah I mean these are sort of. Terms that are only I think the definitions are becoming clearer kind of as we speak but misinformation usually refers to fax that turn out to be wrong and disinformation refers to wrong facts that are being deliberately pedaled for political end. So it's the more sinister version. Disinformation intentional deception often fueled by. Actors of different kinds is sort of crowding out the good information, economics called Gresham's law where you know the bad money the money that's fake gold kind of is circulating everywhere in the real money disappears from the marketplace in a way that something like that happening with information right with is just all of this swirling nonsense depending on where you get your information from and you can't tell what's the good information or if there's any good information in that context way. So one way to think about this is that it used to be hard. To speak, we had gatekeepers, we had these traditional media companies that had a real hold and sort of control over speech. Now, it's really easy to speak, but it's very hard to be heard, and some of what we see in disinformation campaigns is a deliberate effort to drown out true speech or to smear the reputations of people especially online so that they'll effectively be silenced they'll leave the space they won't keep trying to talk, and so it's the use of speech to suppress speech, and that is very challenging for our American First Amendment to deal with. Having you had a really good example in your your piece, which was a me my I hadn't come across that the Democrats were threatening to secede from the country. The election. Just tell that story in brief because it was such a tidy example of sort of you know in the famous like mark. Twain like a lie that God halfway around the world before the truth guidance boots on him and it's just a piece of nonsense spread like wildfire, right? Yeah. So over the summer, a group of academics and former. Administration officials, former campaign staffers, pollsters they got together to game out the twenty twenty election and they played out various scenarios in which one or the other candidate won. It was close there was litigation. There wasn't there basically testing the system of American democracy and Rosa Brooks who was one of the CO organizers of this project wrote an essay in the Washington Post in which you mentioned that in one of the several hypothetical Scenarios Biden won the popular vote Belossi the Electoral College and fictional team Biden talked about trying to ask California and the Pacific northwest threatened to secede as a way of pressuring Republicans to add more succeeds to the Senate there's just a sentence about this in Rosa Brooks's essay Out of that sentence comes an article by Michael Anton- a former trump official and a conservative publication. Arguing that a coup is coming and from that article comes and appearance by another trump official Tucker Carlson show talking about this fictional threat of a democratic coup, very popular right-wing podcast named Dan Bongino. He shows up making videos about this that are getting millions and millions of views on social media president trump tweets in praise of publication called Revolver News, a right-wing website, which is also spreading this false story and what you see here, all the parts of the right wing media ecosystem coming together to really give a big platform to this made up idea that the Democrats are planning a coup.