Vulnerability can also mitigate disinformation

“Anything that worse than a lie is a lie that compounds it.” — Raymond Reddington, The Blacklist, Season 6

To be completely honest, I myself contribute to lying at some point, in my life. I am not a saint. However, this post is not about me but about what I learn about information disorder. To my understanding, based on my experiences, information disorder is created by people and the only intervention we need to counter this disorder is also, people (not forgetting a fucking good communication strategy, of course). Technology is just a convenience in the process of intervention.

Allow me to give a deeper context, in 2018, I was given an opportunity to work alongside journalists in Southeast Asia through a regional non-profit membership-based organization, based in Bangkok, Thailand. For almost eight months (and in counting), I am also fortunate to be able to live in a land of smiles, the pulse of Southeast Asia and the regional hub for any industry, from marketing to fast fashion to development industry. During these eight months, I was indirectly given a crash course about advocacy on press freedom and free expression, and about information disorder. Additionally, I discover a great value of fact-checking whenever we, the Internet users, consumed information of any kind, online.

Consequently, I learnt from my colleagues how important it is to document attacks against journalists and the media community. I also learnt the list of stakeholders involved in the relentless fight for press freedom and free expression, and best practices to intervene and mitigate. As a fast learner and avid observer, I benefit so much from this learning process from my colleagues, friends and acquaintances. Therefore, with gratitude, I thank them for this knowledge sharing experience (and contacts shared).

During the course of my working life in Bangkok, I learnt there are three types of information disorders; disinformation, misinformation and mal-information. Furthermore, the type of information disorder that has greatly impacted journalists and media community in Southeast Asia is disinformation created, produced or distributed by governments, politically affiliated persons/groups, companies and other stakeholders that have the intention to cause harm. This is the type of information disorder that I have learnt from the victims of disinformation. Disinformation used against journalists and media community to stop both actors to report the news without bias, hence, the fight in pursuit of press freedom. Today, there are various proprietary and open source fact-checking tools available online for persons and organizations to use to mitigate and counter disinformation.

What strikes me as ironic is that when disinformation was created by a person within a non-profit organization and distributed to a vast network of partners and donors. There is no fact-checking tool can be used to mitigate such scenario except for in-person discourse and consultation with responsible parties, and if needed, with the intervention of an external mediator. This is the type of information disorder scenario that I would like to stress publicly that when a problem is created by humans which can only be solved by humans. The type of mitigation strategies that should come into the picture are vulnerability, diplomacy, lobbying, evaluation and communication strategies. There are plenty of SMEs (small and medium enterprises), startups, and MNCs (multi-national companies) in the private sector faces this type of scenario even before I was born. Additionally, there are also educational courses online and faculties that discuses hundreds of case studies of this type of information disorder. Sometimes, it falls under the subject of “Organizational Behavior”. I believe, it is because we, indirectly, have made disinformation become exclusively for the journalists and media community, that we might not consider looking beyond its history, implication and influence.

The most essential strategy that we also fail to consider and often overlook in order to mitigate disinformation is vulnerability. Researcher, Dr. Brené Brown explains why vulnerability is essential in communication:

Brené Brown: The Biggest Myth About Vulnerability | Inc. Magazine

Vulnerability is not a weakness, it is a courage that we should, continuedly, thrive on. I wonder if persons in the non-profit sectors have explored and applied vulnerability in their organisations.

What do you think?

The original post can be found on Medium here.

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