Disinformation Campaigns and Fake News in Pandemic Times
What role for law enforcement and security forces?
2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic marked a turning point in peoples’ information consumption habits. In an environment of extreme enforced isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people have increasingly been compelled to turn to online sources for information and guidance. Online news consumption rose considerably as quarantines began. Social media, already one of the primary venues of social activity for millions of people who could no longer meet and talk in person, naturally became a primary source for news. In this environment, misinformation and disinformation has flourished enormously. For millions, they face not only the effects of long term social isolation, but also economic anxiety as they face an uncertain future in a fast-changing economy that threatens to leave many behind. All of these factors have combined to create a “perfect storm” which is making more people vulnerable to disinformation campaigns (Courtney, 2021). These “campaigns” are a threat to our democracies and our way of life. They create social unrest, alarmism, disbelief, chaos, undermine public security and ultimately erode the global standing of liberal democracies. What roles can law enforcement agencies, governments and the European Union play in countering disinformation campaigns? Are they sufficiently aware of these menaces? Are they already tackling these challenging issues? In this paper we will endeavour to explore these issues and propose potential policy actions.
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