Guy Mentel: Disinformation and fake news reflect pre-existing social fault lines

Mentel specified that disinformation and fake news do not create dysfunction out of nothing. Instead, they magnify social fault lines.


xSource: Forbes Colombia

This article was originally published in Spanish in Forbes Colombia on October 22, 2021.

The director of Global Americans spoke with Forbes regarding the implications of fake news and how it reinforces social divides.

Taking part in a panel of experts addressing the causes and consequences of disinformation and fake news, Guy Mentel, director of Global Americans, signaled that both factors are a reflection of pre-existing social fault lines, amplified by social media.

During the event, organized as part of International Day for Universal Access to Information and led by the Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Florida, Nikki Fried, Mentel specified that disinformation and fake news do not create dysfunction out of nothing. Instead, they magnify social fault lines.

“In other words, I think there is a parallel effect here. As we become more polarized and then fall back increasingly onto tribalism, we become therefore more susceptible to misinformation and disinformation. I think there’s no doubt that there has been a rising tide of disinformation around the world in recent years,” said Mentel.

In September, Global Americans, together with an interdisciplinary team composed of researchers from several countries, published an article, “The Misinformation Pandemic: COVID-19 and the Chaotic Cacophony of Lies and Distortions,” in which they demonstrate the crucial role that disinformation and fake news have had in the continued spread of COVID-19.

From resistance to masks and social distancing to the refusal to get vaccinated, many of the behaviors responsible for the transmission of the COVID-19 virus are directly related to the spread of fake news.

Following 16 months of in-depth analysis on the impact of disinformation, Mentel claims that fake news has negative effects beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The research uncovered, in general, that the objective of foreign disinformation campaigns is to create skepticism and distrust in democratic institutions.

According to Mentel, this is due in large part to the fact that internet access and social media consumption have become more and more ubiquitous. However, disinformation is not only concentrated on digital media platforms and networks of conspiracy theorists, but is also disseminated through traditional media.

In light of these circumstances, the director of Global Americans made a call to action to counter the spread of misinformation through collective efforts. These efforts must expose not only erroneous information, but also those who propagate it, be they public figures, the media, or specific sources.

Guy Mentel is the Executive Director of Global Americans.

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