Misinformation and disinformation have increasingly been a focus of public and media scrutiny in recent years. What differentiates past forms of misinformation from present-day are the new tools of information warfare—primarily the internet, and specifically social media platforms—which have effectively weaponized intentional false narratives directed at populations most vulnerable to manipulation. Where there is a lack of diverse populations willing to think critically about important issues, the mass nudging of social and political opinion via misinformation and disinformation both widens societal divides and stimulates action (or sometimes inaction) based on a false narrative. This thesis explores how we can better understand and address the proliferation of misinformation by viewing it through an epidemiological lens. To aid in this examination, the processes of cognitive bias will be explained as they relate to interventional opportunities to prevent contraction and spread, develop immunity, and treat the disease of misinformation. Recommendations focus on building individual and herd immunity to false narratives, reducing the virulence of these messages, and making online environments less conducive to the spread of misinformation. These steps require significant commitment to policies that will be difficult to achieve in a partisan and polarized sociopolitical environment, but they are necessary to support fact-based democratic discourse and decision-making.
Wollman, Lauren McGuire, Mollie R.
Security Studies (Homeland Security and Defense)
Naval Postgraduate School
Master of Arts in Security Studies (Homeland Security and Defense)
National Security Affairs (NSA)
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