The use of misinformation and disinformation has been successfully used to undermine democracy in many countries, and such a dangerous ability to shape public opinion and divide a nation has convinced over 1,400 risk experts, policymakers, and industry leaders around the world to rank it as the top global risk for the next two years, according to the latest “Global Risks Report” by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF).
“No longer requiring a niche skill set, easy-to-use interfaces to large-scale artificial intelligence models have already enabled an explosion in falsified information and so-called ‘synthetic’ content, from sophisticated voice cloning to counterfeit websites,” says WEF.
WEF’s report warns of a global risk landscape in which progress in human development is being chipped away slowly, leaving states and individuals vulnerable to new and resurgent risks. Against a backdrop of systemic shifts in global power dynamics, climate, technology, and demographics, WEF says global risks are “stretching the world’s adaptive capacity to its limit.”
Based on the report, disinformation is so alarming that it trumped extreme weather events, societal polarization, cybersecurity, and interstate armed conflict, in terms of ranking.
WEF also warns countries that are heading into electoral polls soon of a growing distrust of information, as well as media and government sources. This is feared to deepen already polarized views and start a vicious cycle that could trigger civil unrest and “possibly confrontation.”
“The widespread use of misinformation and disinformation, and tools to disseminate it, may undermine the legitimacy of newly elected governments. Resulting unrest could range from violent protests and hate crimes, to civil confrontation and terrorism,” it adds.
Recent technological advances have enhanced the volume, reach and efficacy of falsified information, making disinformation “more difficult to track, attribute, and control.”
What makes it worrying in the case of the Philippines, where the current administration is likely a benefit of a massively successful disinformation campaign, is any safeguards and controls to control it might not be enough, as self-serving politicos may see it as a necessary tool for them to win more elections, especially with the upcoming midterm polls.
If our government doesn’t consider it a priority risk, it will be up to Filipinos to fend for themselves from the dangers of disinformation and misinformation. Knowing the difference will be key if we can discern which is which from the flood of information that is bound to come our way. Those who have already acquired that ability will need to pass it on or assist those who are still vulnerable to misinformation and disinformation.*