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Solving the Disinformation Puzzle

When it comes to tackling the "fake news" problem, there is no silver bullet. The modern information ecosystem is like a Rubik’s Cube: a different move is required to “solve” each individual square, and success requires getting all sides in place.

MENLO PARK, CALIFORNIA – Ever since the November 2016 US presidential election highlighted the vulnerability of digital channels to purveyors of “fake news,” the debate over how to counter disinformation has not gone away. We have come a long way in the eight months since Facebook, Google, and Twitter executives appeared before Congress to answer questions about how Russian sources exploited their platforms to influence the election. But if there is one thing that the search for solutions has made clear, it is that there is no silver bullet.

Instead of one comprehensive fix, what is needed are steps that address the problem from multiple angles. The modern information ecosystem is like a Rubik’s Cube, where a different move is required to “solve” each individual square. When it comes to digital disinformation, at least four dimensions must be considered.

First, who is sharing the disinformation? Disinformation spread by foreign actors can be treated very differently – both legally and normatively – than disinformation spread by citizens, particularly in the United States, with its unparalleled free-speech protections and relatively strict rules on foreign interference.

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