Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt – Combating Disinformation in the midst of an Election


  • A 2016 study by the Pew Research Center identified that 64% of American adults believe that fake news causes a great deal of confusion.
  • The same study revealed that 23% of the participants admitted to having shared fabricated political stories. Some participants even admitted that they intentionally shared fictitious stories!
  • The internet is not the only place where fake news thrives. A recent study by Statista (2020) concluded that 51% of global news consumers have seen fake news on television.

The 2016 US Presidential election confirmed to the world that information warfare is just as effective in disrupting a country as a kinetic military strike. Information operations, which can include disinformation and misinformation campaigns, were effective tools utilized to sway public opinion, and to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt into the heart of democracy. Fast forward to 2020, and little has changed. With the 2020 US Presidential elections only weeks away, it is important that voters learn from past mistakes to secure a better future.

In this week’s post, we will provide a brief overview of disinformation and misinformation, explore the latest tricks foreign actors are using to cause chaos among our ranks, and provide you with tips to avoid spreading falsified information.

Disinformation vs Misinformation

The words disinformation and misinformation are often used interchangeably, and wrongfully so. Similarly to how people erroneously use the terms magazine and clip interchangeably when discussing firearms. Disinformation is defined as “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda.” Misinformation, on the other hand, is defined as “false information that is spread, regardless of intent to mislead.” The second component is crucial! You see, misinformation is typically not malicious in nature, and does not focus on the intent of spreading falsified information. Misinformation typically simply spreads because the message recipient of a message may have mistakenly interpreted the sender’s message, however, disinformation is deliberately put into play to advance an individual’s, or organization’s agenda. That agenda can be anything from discrediting a political opponent, to raising one’s social standing.

The Latest Disinformation Campaign

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cyber Security Infrastructure Agency (CISA) have recently published a joint public announcement regarding disinformation campaigns targeting the 2020 US Presidential election. To undermine the credibility of the US electoral process, foreign threat actors (AKA the bad guys and gals) are actively spreading fictitious information. They allege that voting systems, and other voting related infrastructure (registration databases, email servers, etc.) have been compromised, permitting attackers unfettered access to sensitive data. While election related data, such as, voter registration information, have been accessed in the past, voting systems have NOT been compromised. In fact, in many cases, US voter information is publicly available and can be purchased or acquired through legitimate exchanges. So, keep calm and vote on!

How to Combat Disinformation?

So, how can be spot and stop the spread of disinformation in today’s hyper-connected world? The following recommendations are based on guidance from the FBI and CISA:

  • Always look for information from trustworthy sources. It is extremely important that you verify the authenticity of the content producer and consider their intent when reading and sharing their content. We have included several tools in the “Additional Resources” section that you can use to verify claims.
  • When in doubt, check with your state and local election officials for information regarding voter registration databases, voting systems, and changes in polling sites.
  • Report election crimes, such as disinformation pertaining to the time, place, or manner of voting to the FBI.
  • ALWAYS fact check an article before sharing it with the masses!

Election days is right around the corner. As we get closer to November 3rd, foreign threat actors will continue to use covert and overt tactics to influence your vote and, ultimately, US foreign policy. Fortunately, O’Mard Consulting Services, LLC has armed you with some indispensable tools to assist you in recognizing disinformation.

Now, that you understand the difference between disinformation and misinformation, and are aware of the tactics used by the bad guys and gals to initiate disinformation campaigns, you can join us in the fight against disinformation. If you have any questions regarding disinformation, misinformation, or information operations, do not hesitate to contact us. Make sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter for more tips!

Happy Cybersecurity Awareness Month! Remember to stay calm and vote on this election season.

Additional Resources

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