Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

Fake News or Disinformation 2.0? Some Insights into Romanians' Digital Behaviour

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

Fake News or Disinformation 2.0? Some Insights into Romanians' Digital Behaviour

Article excerpt

1. Introduction. A New Communication Ecosystem

The year 2016 will go down in history as the one when the Brexit referendum took place and Donald Trump was elected as President of the United States of America. Notably, right after the Brexit referendum, then-candidate Trump announced (actually tweeted) that he would surely win the elections in what he called "Brexit times 10". The same year, the Oxford Dictionaries' international word was "post-truth", describing a situation "in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief" (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com). The Munich Security Report 2017, offered as a background document for the Munich Security Conference 20İ7 was aptly entitled "PostTruth, Post-West, Post-Order?'! (https://www.securityconference.de/).

One of the characteristics of the contemporary period is the revival of communication in public affairs - be they national, European or global in scope. Reconsidering the role of communication in framing and interpreting events, its stunning capacity to create, circulate and reinforce labels, as well as its quasi-domination over other social fields, such as finance, politics, diplomacy - is a remarkable development. Social sciences vocabulary, as well as that of ordinary people has been extended to accommodate new terms such as fake news, digital deceit, narrowcasting, filter bubbles, echo chambers, viral auto-bots, like factories, computational amplification, computational propaganda, precision segmentation and persuasion, psychographics profiling, data-driven micro-targeting, troll diplomacy and what not. These terms seek to describe and explain - sometimes more evidence-based, sometimes less so - "the new information disorder" (Wardle & Derakhshan, 2017) - meaning the changes, even information "pathologies" that characterize the contemporary information, communication and persuasion ecosystem.

The new phenomena pertaining to the contemporary information, communication and persuasion ecosystem have started to capture the attention of high-profile politicians, decision-makers, or institutions. As we well know, the term "fake news" was elevated to the mainstream of global political discourse by President Trump during the Presidential campaign, who thus was conveying his dissatisfaction with what he considered "unrelenting bias and unfair news coverage" provided by legacy media such as CNN or New York Times. In January 2018, President Trump announced the "Fake News Awards", whose winners were (a combination between persons, media outlets and media stories): the New York Times' Paul Krugman, BC News' Brian Ross CHOKES, CNN, TIME, Washington Post, Newsweek (www.gop.com, 2018). Leaving this highly flamboyant and politically charged endeavour, the term fake news and the larger phenomena it encompasses ignited the interest of Pope Francis, who delivered a dedicated message for World Communications Day" (24 January 2018), entitled "The truth will set you free. Fake news and journalism for peace" (Pope Francis, 2018). Other high-profile contemporary personalities who have recently paid attention to the phenomenon of fake news, digital disinformation, information warfare, post-fact world are, among others, George Soros (2018), Kofi Annan (2018), Francis Fukuyama (2017), or Joseph Nye (2017). The topic of "fake news" has made it to rather unusual debate outlets, such as "Foreign Affairs", "The Economist", whose focus is rarely captured by issues related to communication, mass media, or online/Internet platforms.

Attempts at regulating the spread of false stories in the online environment have started to surface more and more often, especially in the context of elections (France, Germany, Italy) and in January 2018 the European Commission convened a High-Level Expert Group on Fake News and Online Disinformation, whose report was released in March (European Commission, 2018). Based on this cursory analysis, one can safely say that both the term "fake news" (arguably a misleading one - see next section) and the larger phenomena of digital misinformation and disinformation, digital deceit, information warfare, hybrid threats, data warfare - have risen to the top of intellectual and policy concerns. …

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