COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The arguments over disinformation on the internet has amplified during the last four years.
Nina Jankowicz is a disinformation fellow for the Independent Research Group at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C.
She recently testified with the House Intel Committee that America is losing the war on disinformation with Russia and domestically and that democracy is at stake.
“We are based on freedom of expression absolutely but also the truth,” Jankowicz said. “Democracy doesn’t work without the truth and without those authoritative sources of information, so we need to see our government stand up for that.”
On Wednesday, a government subcommittee scolded the CEO’s of Facebook, Twitter and Google for their lack of platform oversight on the disinformation war. But those same companies reap the benefit of people’s anger being expressed on their sites.
“They are deciding the content, the stuff to push into your feeds, the ones you’re going to engage with more, be enraged,” Jankowicz said. “The most engaging content is the most enraging content.”
She says Facebook groups now help to cross pollinate conspiracy theories because people are inclined to trust the people in their own circles.
“Clicking on ads, it allows the platform to gather data on you, so that we can then sell those adds,” Jankowicz said. “We have to disrupt that business model. It’s much less about censorship and content moderation than it is about establishing the right incentives or as it were disincentives for the platforms to uphold democracy and civil discourse.”
Oversight comes from the FCC, the FTC, the Federal Election Commission, but government technology assessment was dissolved in the 1990s. But Jankowicz says help is still needed.
“What I’m in favor of is establishing some sort of third-party oversight transparency body because right now we have to take the platforms at their word,” she said. “Who is getting censored and who is not and frankly if we had a third-party oversight we wouldn’t have those questions anymore.”
Jankowicz says a key target of rage is women, especially women of color. But women like Jankowicz are trying to debunk disinformation myths.
“It makes a lot of women disengage from getting their opinions out there, and I can’t overstate what a threat to democracy that is, especially for women of color,” Jankowicz said.