Information warfare abounds, and everyone online has been drafted whether they know it or not.
Disinformation is deliberately generated misleading content disseminated for selfish or malicious purposes. Unlike misinformation, which may be shared unwittingly or with good intentions, disinformation aims to foment distrust, destabilize institutions, discredit good intentions, defame opponents and delegitimize sources of knowledge such as science and journalism.
Many governments engage in disinformation campaigns. For instance, the Russian government has used images of celebrities to attract attention to anti-Ukraine propaganda. Meta, parent company of Facebook and Instagram, warned on Nov. 30, 2023, that China has stepped up its disinformation operations.
Disinformation is nothing new, and information warfare has been practiced by many countries, including the U.S. But the internet gives disinformation campaigns unprecedented reach. Foreign governments, internet trolls, domestic and international extremists, opportunistic profiteers and even paid disinformation agencies exploit the internet to spread questionable content. Periods of civil unrest, natural disasters, health crises and wars trigger anxiety and the hunt for information, which disinformation agents take advantage of.