This submission responds primarily to the inquiry’s questions on what constitutes 'fake news' and its impact or potential impact on public understanding of the world, for the purpose of illuminating the specific security challenges presented by the phenomenon. The submission also touches on its relationship with advertising. It is argued that the term ‘fake news’ is unhelpful as it places a wide range of activities and story types under a single heading. The implications of propaganda, disinformation and careless or sensational reporting are discussed in relation to the security of nations, corporations, communities and individuals.
The media has always carried a certain amount of disinformation, some of which may be seen simply as careless reporting or gossip. However, in today’s technology-driven media landscape, the problem is magnified many times over. Propaganda and disinformation need to be seen alongside forms of cyber crime as representing another growing ‘cyber-enabled’ threat: activities that have been so transformed by network technology that they now present governments and organisations with substantial security challenges. Having played a significant role in the First and Second World Wars they are now recognised as a significant element of contemporary ‘hybrid warfare’, as demonstrated in Russia’s actions in Ukraine, being employed to undermine confidence in national governments and manipulate democratic processes.