disinformation

First Amendment, propaganda will automatically enter the media equation. We need to combat it the way we combat all bad ideas: with our vigilance and wit, knowing that we can’t ever completely expunge it from the atmosphere. [...] By our best non-hysterical efforts, refuting propaganda with the diligence we fight cockroaches, we can hope to reduce propaganda’s effect to that of background radiation. The truth loses battles but never the war.

The 2016 presidential race was rife with disinformation, none more blatant than fake news -- hoaxes, half-truths, outright lies -- that flashed through the internet at warp speed. Take, for example, "Pizzagate," a made-up story of a pedophilia ring supposedly being run out of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor by none other than Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman John Podesta.

Congressional negotiators on Wednesday approved an initiative to track and combat foreign propaganda amid growing concerns that Russian efforts to spread “fake news” and disinformation threaten U.S. national security. The measure, part of the National Defense Authorization Act approved by a conference committee, calls on the State Department to lead governmentwide efforts to identify propaganda and counter its effects. The authorization is for $160 million over two years.

The planting of false stories is nothing new; the Soviet Union devoted considerable resources to that during the ideological battles of the Cold War. Now, though, disinformation is regarded as an important aspect of Russian military doctrine, and it is being directed at political debates in target countries with far greater sophistication and volume than in the past.

Surprisingly, some of these leaders, particularly in Russia and China, have been wielding a sophisticated and deceptive soft power beyond their borders that is proving more enduring and effective than in the past. Their tactics are asymmetrical and subversive, using deception and disinformation, not easily confronted.

Jamala’s win and her powerful song about persecution and the abuse of Crimean Tatars has filled our hearts with pride and solidarity. It also reminds us that culture is a powerful instrument for building trust, understanding and peace.

Arguing that the United States has so far failed to invest seriously in understanding or pushing back against the problem of Russian propaganda and disinformation, Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Washington Post columnist, and Edward Lucas, a senior editor at the Economist, are launching this week a counter-disinformation initiative at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington, DC. 

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