But threats to and through information also lurk in free media markets where the value of qualitative information is deliberately inflated by the planned overproduction of information. Freedom of information and media diversity are thus exploited to disturb people in free media environments. Important social discussions or democratic processes, such as elections, can be undermined in this way.
This challenge is described as “disinformation campaigns,” i.e., the deliberate spread of false information to achieve a political goal.Misleading a political opponent with disinformation is nothing new: Some 2,500 years ago, the Greek city-state of Athens is said to have lured the Persian King Xerxes into the Battle of Salamis with clever disinformation of its own weakness, thus decisively defeating him.
But the digital revolution has revolutionised a central motif of information in recent years: From a principally prevailing lack of information both correct and incorrect an abundance of communication and information signals has emerged.
Humanity had long lived with information scarcity. Humans always had too little knowledge about themselves and other peoples, nature and the social environment.
But new information signals are very important, as they expand our knowledge of the world. A better understanding of reality ensures survival, limits dangers and creates new opportunities. That has increased people’s interest in access to more information of-ten to the chagrin of religious, political or economic authorities.
Inquisitiveness can endanger their power. This is precisely why authoritarian or totalitarian regimes use censorship to suppress undesired information.The view of the world was to be manipulated with a controlled shortage of information. That’s why censorship is still part of the toolbox for controlling information in many dictatorships to-day.
Digital technologies have revolutionized communication and information: The principle of controlling information by suppressing it has become impossible in free media systems. For just over 10 years, smartphones, the Internet and “social media” have been ubiquitous. News races around the globe in real-time. Demonstrations, wars and any kind of political event spread almost live through thousands of photos, videos and texts.What’s more, information is all-encompassing.
Traffic information, restaurant ratings, private information, personal fitness data and much more can be accessed on smartphones or on smartwatches. The multitude of signals condenses into a noise of information for the individual. People in free media markets have solved the problem of information scarcity with the communications revolution.
There is no longer a shortage of quantitative information. On one hand, this generates huge opportunities to better understand the world. On the other, it has created an impossible-to-manage information overload. People are now faced with the individual challenge of identifying the important and relevant signals.It is precisely this noise that modern disinformation campaigns take advantage of. They aim to distort knowledge about reality by deliberately overloading the information space.
Whether the information is true or untrue is less important. Such “successful” disinformation campaigns can contain many different and contradictory pieces of information. Crucially, the deliberately amplified information noise inflates the value of qualitative information and real facts. Be aware of which people or resources you pay attention to.
By making these choices, you’re not just silencing the noise of information. You deprive the disinformers of your attention and dis-information campaigns of their viral power.