Misinformation, disinformation, mal-information: A one-way road to Perdition


Misinformation is false information. Disinformation is deliberate falsehood. Mal-information is information that might be true, but is intentionally used to deceive.

These mendacities are the mother’s milk of the anti-vaccine activists, political propagandists, conspiracy theorists, and their ilk. They corrode our liberty, under the false guise that their vulgar messages are strengthening our freedom. Balderdash!

In 1962, the famous science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clark proposed three new laws of “science.” The third became the most famous and most cited: “A technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic.” I am a believer in the magic of this “law of science.” The magic of digital technology (DT) has fundamentally changed the 21st Century; now and forever; for better or worse.

Since the industrial revolution of the 19th century, technology has increased exponentially, whereas, social norms and government laws have lagged eons behind technological advancements. This is why DT has been so successful, and why we have so few meaningful laws to rein in the ocean of deceit in which we are drowning.

The guiding principle of “trollism” is to inundate social networks with prodigious amounts of the exuded grass digested by cows – a four-letter word I cannot print here, but you know what I mean.

Digital technology allows legions of anonymous fabricators to subvert users of social media. Adept exploitation of social networks enables these “trolls” — human, robot and sophisticated Artificial Intelligence/algorithms — to mislead us. They operate 24/7/365, creating a tsunami of outrage and confusion with their fakery; these trolls have been described as “epistemic sociopaths.”

Trolls are socio-pathological serial killers of Truth. The First Amendment does not protect robots or artificial intelligence (AI) to sing their deceitful songs.

These enemies of Truth succeed because they are aided and abetted by social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like, which have virtually no restrictions on what appears on their podiums. These vicious, unrelenting attacks on our democracy are unprecedented, and they must not be ignored. Doing so only emboldens trolls to try even harder to convince us that what we believe to be true, is not to be believed at all.

The goal of the trolls is not to convince you of the lies they propagate. Their goal is to make you question what you believe, and to confuse you to the extent that you can no longer discriminate between truth and falsity.

Trolls want folks to be unable to know whom to trust; who is lying; who is telling the truth. Confusion, frustration, indecision – such chaos becomes a deadly weapon. In that way, these demons act like merciless termites steadily eating away at the pillars of our democracy, pillars built upon Truth. Every aspect of trust and credibility is corroded and degraded by these insidious “Pied Pipers of Lies” through their knowledge and use of digital technology.

A major player in the social media universe, Salesforce (CRM), whose CEO also owns Time magazine, is increasingly critical of Facebook. Insider information from the Wall Street Journal’s investigation found that Facebook’s highest officials were not only well aware of its negative impact on users, but also that they failed to mitigate this existential problem. To quote a basic critique of Facebook by Salesforce’s CEO: “In each and every major topic, it gets connected back to the mistrust that is happening and especially the amount of it being seeded by the social networks. It must stop now!”

Recently, YouTube has hit hard on the falsities of the anti-vaxxer trolls, including in Russia. A definite step in the right direction.

Some high-tech billionaires have urged Congress to try and stop the “level of deceit” on virtually all social networks. The Federal government has a vital role to play, and it is essential that Congress pass specific laws to prevent social media platforms such as Facebook from disseminating deceitful, dangerous garbage – tall tales that attack our democratic principles at their very foundation.

The trolls are the enemy of Superman and our republic: “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” The survival of our thus-far-successful experiment with republican democracy is at stake. Trollism is a “clear and present danger,” and they must be stopped.

Germany’s government pressured Facebook, which took an unprecedented removal of fake accounts spreading COVID-19 misinformation that also encouraged violence onto COVID restrictions. If the Germans can manage this important remediation of our problems with evil Trolls, why can’t we?

“Well, all I know is what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers

David M. Taub was Mayor of Beaufort from 1990 through 1999 and served as a Beaufort County Magistrate from 2010 to 2015. You can reach him at david.m.taub42@gmail.com.

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