Reversing Information Disorder
Aspen Digital produces a report that sounds a call to responsibility
Yesterday seemed to be a day devoted to trees. I published a piece about transgressive arborists in our midst who can’t see the forest for the trees, and the Commission on Information Disorder at Aspen Digital (part of the Aspen Institute) released its final report. It’s long — 80 pages — so I’ve ordered a printed version (more trees) from a nearby office supply store so I can read it in-depth and mark it up.
The introduction alone made me sit up and take notice. I’ve provided selected passages from it below. These hit on issues I’ve discussed here, including the lack of proactive leadership, our poor grasp on our work product expectations, and the “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” reality right now with profligate information distribution and enablement.
I’ll report on the entire document down the road, I’m sure. But for now, please take a moment to contemplate these selections from the introduction. I found them bracing.
Information disorder is a crisis that exacerbates all other crises. When bad information becomes as prevalent, persuasive, and persistent as good information, it creates a chain reaction of harm.
. . .
In the face of this challenge, we would expect information disorder to be a
central concern for anyone in society who bears the title of “leader.” Proactive leadership, rising from within every sector and institution in our society, is our only way out of this crisis. And yet it is sorely missing. The committed and powerful leadership we need is not yet the leadership we have.
. . .
The biggest lie of all, which this crisis thrives on, and which the beneficiaries of mis- and disinformation feed on, is that the crisis itself is uncontainable. One of the corollaries of that mythology is that, in order to fight bad information, all we need is more (and better distributed) good information. In reality, merely elevating truthful content is not nearly enough to change our current course. There is an incentive system in place that manufactures information disorder, and we will not address the problem if we do not take on that system, nor will we improve if we fail to address the larger societal issues that continue to divide us.
If we want to reduce information disorder, there are structural changes that we can and must make to our information ecosystem, and there are rules that we can and must implement to better govern the decisions and behavior of information platforms and propagators.
. . .
This crisis demands urgent attention and a dedicated response from all parts of society. Every type and level of leader must think seriously about this crisis and their role in it.
I’m looking forward to reading the entire report.