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Disinformation and our Democracy: 2024 the year that will be

Two years ago, in September 2021, at Lynn we launched The Misinformation Cell – the UK’s first dedicated commercial anti-mis/disinformation service for PR and Communications. 

Why? Because if as practitioners, we are looking at creating or influencing behaviours for positive societal impact, then we have a responsibility to protect those behaviours from dis and misinformation.

So what is disinformation? Disinformation is the intentional proliferation of false information often serving a specific agenda. Misinformation is the unintentional  spread of that false information – typically without malice or agenda.

So why is this important? Because for misinformation to exist, disinformation narratives have to exist in such a way that they truly resonate with populations at scale – in a way that makes them believe it and share it.

Since we launched The Misinformation Cell it has been at the cutting edge of translating academic research into actionable intelligence and advisory for communicators, policy advisors, and risk officers. We have found that whilst communicators now acknowledge and understand the threats from mis/disinformation – indeed, it is one of the top topics at conferences today – our response as an industry still remains tactical.  We’re still worried about how we react to false information, typically on our social channels – whether we fact check, delete, hide, or block – all very important of course. Yet, this remains a reactive approach and not a proactive one. 

Now, on to 2024. The biggest election year in history. 

40 elections across  countries making up over 42% of global GDP, representing 41% of the world’s population, will go to the polls.

How we vote can change the shape of our democracies. It can mean everything from how we respond to the next pandemic to how we respond to our burning planet. 

So now is the time for us to really understand the scale of threat from disinformation. Have no doubt. Disinformation is an industry.

It is organised. 

It is sophisticated.

It is monetised. 

This organised nature of disinformation, the proliferation of false information with a view to further polarise and divide us, the acceleration of disinformation due to the rapid growth of AI will all come to a head next year.

As with inoculation, preventative action is far more effective (and cost effective) than being on the back foot. And as communicators we have a key role to play. We need to be proactive if we are to be effective in keeping our audiences resilient to bad actors and disruptive agendas.  

2024 will be the year that will define us. Whether we can stand up to false information, polarisation, and a distortion of our values and morals that makes us a society is yet to be seen. 

Shayoni Lynn

CEO & Founder 

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