Impact of Fake News on Organisational Resilience

2020-04-06

Countering disinformation activities during the COVID-19 outbreak

There is a lot of fear and anxiety in our society right now. The fear of being impacted, being unprepared, infected, or exposing our loved ones to risks. Fear is one of our strongest driving forces, but it is a poor guide and usually ends up affecting our judgment negatively. More and more indications are now showing that certain actors are using fake news during the escalation of COVID-19 to influence our societal response. With facts, thoughtfulness and structured working methods, we can increase the security in our organizations against fake news activities in general and in relation to COVID-19 specifically.

We do not think rationally when we are afraid and one side effect of that process is that we are desperately searching for information that alleviates our concerns. The need for information and affected judgment form the perfect breeding ground for those who want to cultivate disinformation and devote themselves to information influence activities.

“There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear”

Hans Rosling, Factfulness

Exactly how fake news activities are used, who is the sender and who is the actual target group is sometimes difficult to identify. Most commonly the purpose is to create uncertainty, disbelief in the authorities and between people, as well as to instill fear. In short, disinformation undermines trust in our society and in our democracy. In many cases the information is spread as tips and advice (without factual basis) on social media by people who mean well but do not know what they are sharing. This has negative effects and creates confusion as well as undermines the credibility of the authorities.

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Information influence activities and COVID-19

Since the COVID-19 outbreak in China’s Wuhan Province, there has now been a number of cases of fake news, and as the pandemic impacts all parts of our lives further, we are looking more and more for some information where we can help ourselves. The first such viral case was the claim that ‘if you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, then you don’t have the virus’. This message alone has been shared more than 30,000 times and in a dozen countries. Clearly this sort of information can have a very damaging impact on official communications from government or from businesses to their employees. Just this week news has emerged that Facebook and Twitter are deleting posts form world leaders as they either play down the virus or in the case of Brazil, even provide a ‘totally effective’ treatment to their people, which in turn could cause physical harm. Read more about it at BBC →

The BBC provides another excellent example of ‘how bad information goes viral’ here →

So, what does all of this mean for organisational resilience and how can we ensure that our response and our colleagues are not affected by this?

Improve your organisation´s security and resilience against fake news and information influence activities by:

  • Providing accurate facts and authoritative information to the entire organization, to strengthen the resilience and level of knowledge internally.
  • Prepare your organization with the knowledge and skills needed for detecting and identifying disinformation as well as information influence activities so that you can meet it with accurate information,
  • Create networks within the organization so that you can more easily detect if someone is trying to influence you,
  • Create networks with other organizations and stakeholders to give you more power to discover and counter disinformation,
  • Review your risks and vulnerabilities and conduct an analysis of your most important target groups and stakeholders.

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