The repeated disinformation campaigns by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and other countries would require state action to counteract their harmful effects, according to several Australian professors.
The Australian government announced the creation of a working group under the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to fight disinformation campaigns, reported The Conversation on June 23.
Professors Sarah Morrison, Belinda Barnet, and James Martin of Swinburne University of Technology stressed the importance of making campaigns against the disinformation part of an international strategy.
“Where we see disinformation, whether it’s here, whether it’s in the Pacific, whether it’s in Southeast Asia, where it affects our region’s interests and our values, then we will be shining a light on it,” said Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on the subject.
Payne, who is also a senator, accused the CCP and Russia—totalitarian regimes, of “using the pandemic to undermine liberal democracy” and of sowing division in democracies through biased propaganda campaigns.
“The disinformation we have seen contributes to a climate of fear and division when what we need are cooperation and understanding,” Payne said.
Taking an international perspective, Payne has been pushing for international bodies to crack down on disinformation.
Payne also reported that Australia and 131 other countries joined in a statement warning that the CCP Virus pandemic had “created conditions that allow the spread of disinformation, false news, and video manipulation to foment violence and divide communities,” according to ABC.
Disinformation spreads false narratives, false news, and conspiracy theories that gain credibility as they are reissued by trusted friends, family members, community figures, or political leaders, who often do not confirm the veracity of the information they help distribute.
Far from being just a suspicion, Twitter reported on June 12 that it had deleted more than 170,000 accounts spreading disinformation about the CCP, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, and attempts to discredit the United States.
Meanwhile, Oxford University reported last year that social media manipulation campaigns had been broadcast in 70 countries, including Australia.