Mitigating Challenges of Disinformation on Social Media

Mitigating the challenges of disinformation on Social Media is a key subject nowadays as the world is seeing fifth generation warfare and hybrid warfare. We’re constantly seeing the involvement of fake news and the involvement of businesses that are running the fake news to drag down the people’s thinking towards somewhere it should not go. The impact of social media is significant, the political spheres, economies, and cultures are being impacted by Social Media mediums. Its bad impact, the social media carries on politics, economy, and culture needs to be countered.

So many social mediums are used, mostly Facebook and Twitter. Nowadays, YouTube has become a very important social media tool for spreading propaganda. When a country’s channels are not being watched in the opponent’s country, then the YouTube platform is being used to propagate the agenda. India is a prime example in this regard. In recent times, knowing the fact that Indian channels are banned in Pakistan, they are constantly utilizing platforms including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to spread false information and to propagate Indian narratives against Pakistan.

The global users of Social Media are gradually increasing over time. Within twenty years, the advent of the technological sector has improved the connectivity among the people but it has created problems as well. Everyone wants to get connected with their loved ones. In modern times, we hardly find time to meet each other in person, therefore, everyone is trying to meet through social mediums. This is good in this way, as you can easily find your old fellows and get connected with them. But at the same time, in the parallel, we have the negative impact/use of Social Media.

There are many case studies, EU Disinfo report is the latest one, in which the Srivastava group was deciphered by EU Disinfo. They were running more than 700 news portals with fake news, from the outlook they looked genuine. They even hired journalists to work for them and were being run from New Delhi. The Srivastava group was also attached with so many NGOs that were working within and outside Pakistan just to devalue the efforts and the name of Pakistan. 

The British firm, Cambridge Analytica, was using Facebook data of users. They were using the data to propagate the narratives on the behalf of their clients. Another British company, BellPottinger, was involved in a propaganda campaign for the US Department of Defense. When the war on terror was going on, as part of the project Bell Pottinger created fake videos that were approved by General David Petraeus and that appeared to be the work of Al-Qaeda. Although, Cambridge Analytica and Bell-Pottinger have been banned these kinds of platforms are still being used. The Cambridge Analytica and Bell-Pottinger were active in Eastern Europe and African countries. They were influencing even the elections in the countries. So, we can understand to what extent such companies can play the role.

The disinformation on social media is posing serious challenges to the governments as well as the common people. The Psychological Operations, the rise of intolerance, mistrust in the society, fake propaganda, and xenophobia are considered as major challenges of disinformation on social media. Plenty of examples have been seen across the globe, as there is an increase in intolerance in the societies, people are committing mass murders due to the influence of social media.

Why does disinformation work so well? This is because of the following reasons. Firstly, people believe what they want to believe. We all tend to avoid cognitive dissonance – that means that we believe information that fits into our world view and, above all, our social identity. Secondly, the technical possibilities make it increasingly difficult to identify and expose disinformation nowadays. For this, media awareness and a certain level of media competence are particularly necessary.

Thirdly, disinformation and especially fake news play with negative emotions and this is exactly what the authors make use of. The human brain gives negative news much more attention than positive news and thus arouses more interest among readers. This phenomenon is also called negativity bias (also: negativity effect) and describes the effect that people are more likely to be attracted to negative news. Fourthly, we are confronted with a huge amount of information every day through social media. Verifying each one of these pieces of information would probably take us days. Therefore, the power of disinformation should not be underestimated, because we often assume – without checking – that sources are reliable and thus (intentionally) false news can also have particularly high credibility.

Since Covid-19 has already proved that, the dynamics of everything is changing and we need to adjust ourselves because we cannot stop time and technology as it has to go but we can manage it. Cybercriminals are threatening every aspect of life whether it’s governments and businesses. As the world is continuously evolving, so giving due importance to Cyber Security in Emerging Technologies is the need of the hour.

The future of the internet will have three things in common: the software will be Artificial Intelligence (AI), the hardware will be IoT and the platform will be blockchain. So, there is a need to discuss Industrial Revolution 4.0, Block-chain infrastructure concomitant with internet-induced threats of things. Furthermore, the potential dark side of the internet and its destructive tendency. Unless we are not putting the right infrastructure, we are not serious in adjusting ourselves to the modern dimensions of the Internet. For instance, three days before, the governor state back hinted at introducing crypto-currency but without basic block-chain infrastructure, it would be a mistake. 

There are tremendous suggestions in this regard but where is the strategy, regulatory policy, or national law? All these things are posing a serious question. Machines have now surpassed the way humans used to understand things but humans are still supreme. We need to teach AI at our school level as we will need AI experts in the next three to four years. Since, Industrial Revolution 4.0 is going to change the way our industries are working right now as now its era of beacons, smart-computing. The apps will inform the owners that their machines require maintenance. Apps will inform owners that their machines have been hacked and how you can secure your digital currency. Hence it`s very important to understand cyber-security challenges in the industrial realm.

The misinformation and fake news are also part of hybrid warfare which is waged against adversaries at the national and international level. Every war has its cost and this factor enables armies to wage wars for prolonged timelines. When it comes to technology, the aggressors have mastered more tools and tactics than defenders. Fake news on social media is linked with the cost of the war which is very low. Several armies are across the globe waging this war on social media and it’s important to understand AI is fuelling this whole phenomenon.

For instance, phishing campaigns are targeting big figures and are operated by algorithms and all information is harvested automatically, combining some deep algorithms, creating texts, tweets, and emails. With the help of a manipulated viral image, the battles of perception are fought via image distortion and Twitter bots to generate tide and millions of tweets can be generated by just two to three persons. 

To confront the fake propaganda on media, you need to create content that can push your narrative further. The best example of spreading fake propaganda can be Modi’s fascism, using the Hindutva ideology, being propagated through media. Every single day, they keep hammering with fake propaganda and people start believing in the propagated things. Moreover, everyone knows about the Curious Case of Karima Baloch. Her name surfaced in EU DisinfoLab’s report as to how she was used by India to spread certain propaganda against Pakistan. After her sudden death, mainstream and social media suddenly woke up to the story making direct attacks on ISI. A deliberate designed and chained propaganda started with hashtags. Later when police termed her death as not suspicious but the DAMAGE had been already done.


The basic responsibility is of the professional people. They are the ones who are to make sure that fact-based news is passed on. The fake and sponsored platforms should be assessed. Various strategies can be adopted to mitigate the challenges of disinformation. News Content Models and Social Context Models can be used in this regard. The News Content Models include Knowledge-based and Style-based. In the Knowledge-based model, expert-oriented, crowdsourcing-oriented, and computational-oriented approaches are used. Style-based, Deception-oriented, and Objectivity oriented approaches are included. Moreover, Social Context Models include Stance-based and Propagation-based approaches.

Furthermore, Indigenous Data Security System should be developed and the local social media platforms need to be created and promoted at the national level, at least. The regulation of social media is a need of the time to control the fake propaganda which is being propagated by the enemies of peace. In parallel to this, awareness campaigns should also be launched through digital channels to avoid fake news. A central command and control system should be established which should be headed by the higher authority of Pakistan and all law enforcement agencies should be part of it. Cyberspace has become the battleground for wars and diplomacy so we need to work on its strategies. We need to work in unconventional ways, engage civil society and academia, and more importantly our journalists for building the positive narrative of Pakistan. The government needs to work on digital diplomacy and harnessing cyberspace for projecting the positive image of Pakistan at the international level.

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