Aspen Institute UK and Aspen Digital (US) recently co-hosted a private roundtable discussion on the information disorder caused by the impact of mis- and disinformation in the digital world, both in UK and beyond. The event brought together respected leaders from across a wide range of public and private sectors to discuss this critical subject.
Across the world, societies are facing a major crisis. Bad information has become as prevalent, persuasive, and persistent as good information, creating a chain reaction of harm. It makes any health crisis more deadly. It slows down response time on climate change. It undermines democracy. Against this background, the Aspen Institute’s Digital Programme convened the Commission on Information Disorder in 2021 to bring together a variety of stakeholders to investigate the issues and root causes of mis- and disinformation in society, and propose recommendations that can address the challenges we face. The result was the Information Disorder Report. This report outlines the causes and scope of information disorder, and offers a viable framework for action. It makes 15 recommendations for how government, private industry, and civil society can help to increase transparency and understanding, build trust, and reduce harms.
The commission limited its original recommendations to the US, and now Aspen Digital is continuing the investigation of these issues in a global context. A series of roundtable meetings were convened in Berlin, London and Brussels, asking a diverse group of experts about the Commission’s recommendations, their own experiences and insights, and determine how we might meaningfully engage in a European conversation on information disorder.
The roundtable event in London brought together respected leaders from across the British government, private sector, academia and beyond to discuss how mis-or disinformation can be tackled, how we can restore trust in key institutions, and the ways to heal the growing fissures that have emerged in society as a consequence of this crisis in truth. Nine insights emerged from our conversation as the most important and relevant issues to inform future work on information disorder:
- The EU’s willingness to regulate big tech creates new opportunities for interventions that protect consumers and address the harms.
- Even with new rules and regulations, the ad-based and engagement-driven models need to change.
- It’s not just tech. Societal divisions must be addressed; they are the fuel for disinformation.
- News media are being weakened worldwide, especially local media.
- State actors are a constant threat in all countries, and their capabilities are often underestimated.
- Tech platforms do not provide the necessary transparency and data to understand information disorder.
- Journalists need to improve their approaches, and build new trusted relationships with the public.
- There are tradeoffs and consequences to every intervention; we need to take a systemic approach to ensure we protect what we value while addressing the harms.
- Healthy discourse begins with facts and a shared understanding of history; without it, we can’t build and maintain community connections.
We look forward to collaborating with our Aspen Digital partners in the future to understand how to build a better information ecosystem in the UK, and beyond.