Barack Obama, at the Disinformation and the Erosion of Democracy Conference at the University of Chicago on 6 April 2022, queried, “imagine how any of us would process information if we are not getting, seeing, anything else?... It is difficult for me to see how we can win the contest of ideas if, in fact, we are not able to agree on a baseline of facts that allow the marketplace of ideas to work.”
Recent events in Ukraine have underscored yet again the impact that intentional misinformation and propaganda have during times of political unrest and warfare. The news is full of stories of state-sponsored false facts and disinformation, as well as severe limits on access to information not just within Russia and Ukraine but widespread actively across the global infrastructure of information, thanks to the ease, speed, and breadth of the Internet. While it is common to use rhetoric to convince people of a threat, challenge, or benefit, it is also common in battles, invasions, and insurrections to create justifications for one’s best interests, shifting death counts or destruction or blame in whatever light pushes forward those interests. But in today’s world, in which so many have the ability to document what is happening in front of them and potentially share it, such claims can be investigated by many more trained eyes, and it is crucial that we are all critical consumers of the information deluge that we now receive.