Public Policy is the science of what a government does or does not do in reaction to a particular social problem12. For a phenomenon to become a social problem, it must affect a wide range of citizens or hinder the functioning of the state. This is precisely why one must talk about disinformation, as it has grown into a real – not only state-wide, but global – problem over the past two decades.
In the current day and age, sharing and finding information is exceptionally easy. A few decades ago, there was no way for us, regular citizens, to monitor the credibility of every piece of information we are being told. As citizens were not connected by the Internet the only way to reach out to an entire population was through education, television, mail, telephone, newspapers, books.
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MÁRTON SCHLANGER_UNDERSTANDING THE EU’S ROLE IN THE FIGHT
Meanwhile, the spread of information by means of these methods was very costly, and so governments had considerable control over information flow in their respective countries.
This is also exactly why in the past, the entities spreading large-scale disinformation this way were the governments themselves. Back then, the average person did not have the means to fact check the information they receive.
Nowadays, “disinformation policy” constitutes a brand-new wave of governmental and even supranational policy that did not exist in its current form in the past.
False information harms its recipients, and if the damage is done to a large number of citizens or households, this causes problems for governments too. An example would be a foreign country using disinformation to influence the outcome of elections in another country.
In this study, I resorted to methodology used in the field of Public Policy, to define the truly social problem of disinformation. I use a combination of tools in order to create a model in which disinformation policy can be interpreted.
The main questions I will be asking are, firstly: How can we combat disinformation?; secondly: What could be called a “liberal” approach in disinformation regulation?; and finally: Where does the EU stand in all this?
The Five Elements of Disinformation
In this study, we are looking at disinformation as a combination of five main elements: source of disinformation, spread, reception, regulation, and implementation. This article attempts to model disinformation as an interaction between actors; each actor having a role in any of the five key elements of the interaction.
1 Birkland, T.A. (2001) An Introduction to the Policy Process, Armonk: M.E. Sharpe.
2 An example of this could be of people refusing to wear a mask during a pandemic, because they had read “somewhere” that it does not matter.