Fake News and Information Warfare: An Examination of the Political and Psychological Processes From the Digital Sphere to the Real World

Fake News and Information Warfare: An Examination of the Political and Psychological Processes From the Digital Sphere to the Real World

Rosanna E. Guadagno (Stanford University, USA) and Karen Guttieri (Air University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8535-0.ch011

Abstract

Fake news—false information passed off as factual—is an effective weapon in the information age. For instance, the Russian government perfected techniques used in its 2007 Estonian and 2008 Georgian cyber campaigns to support Donald Trump's successful candidacy in the 2016 United States presidential election. In this chapter, the authors examine fake news and Russia's cyberwarfare efforts across time as case studies of information warfare. The chapter identifies key terms and reviews extant political science and psychological research related to obtaining an understanding of psychological cyber warfare (“psywar”) through the proliferation of fake news. Specifically, the authors suggest that there are social, contextual, and individual factors that contribute to the spread and influence of fake news and review these factors in this chapter.
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Background: Key Terms In The Post-Truth Era

What is going on? One might argue that Americans in 2016 were ready to believe just about anything. Comedian Stephen Colbert had over a decade before coined the word “truthiness” to refer to “the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true” (Oxford Living Dictionaries, 2018). After the 2016 election, the late Senator John McCain expressed alarm at “the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies.” (John McCain, 2017). In a post-truth world, objective truth does not matter, and what is truthful or factual is opinion-based and therefore purely in the eye of the beholder. America had become “untethered from reality,” a “fatasyland,” Kurt Andersen wrote in The Atlantic (2017, December 28). Now more than ever, Americans are confused about even “basic facts” and 64% of Americans say that fake news has caused confusion (Mitchell et al. 2016).

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