by Claudia Pires de Castro, Helena Vetorazo, and Ivette Labres*

Translated and Reviewed by Matheus Lucas Hebling

In recent years, countries such as the USA, Brazil, Colombia, India, France, and Nigeria have been looking for ways to minimize the impacts of so-called fake news on politics and social life in general. The common use of the expression fake news or fake news has produced a certain normalization of use and minimized the complexity of a problem that goes beyond the simple judgment of the truth or falsity of a content. In the use of fake news, intentions and power struggles are intertwined that feed the social imaginary and negatively affect social relations in various spheres.
Concern about the impact of fake news on Brazilian social life led the company Meta to establish a partnership with the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) to combat misinformation that threatens democratic processes in the country. Since December 2021, whenever Facebook and Instagram identify the 2022 election theme, a notice appears on the subject with links that refer directly to the Electoral Justice Portal. These warnings or labels were already used in the country in publications related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now they are also included in publications about the 2022 elections.
According to the report produced by We Are Social in partnership with Hootsuite on the use of social media in the period 2020 and 2021, Facebook, Youtube, WhatsApp, and Instagram are among the most used social media sites. Especially Facebook and WhatsApp, due to mobile data packages that offer these services for free, are the most commonly used social network sites (SNS) in the country. It is in these social networks that most Brazilians compose and expand their social networks. Especially on WhatsApp, people make up everyday sociability networks, involving everyday personal relationships and also the purchase and sale of products.
Although the General Personal Data Protection Law (LGPD) has been in force in the country since August 2018, a global information market has used refined psychometric techniques to automatically distribute content that may be of interest to people with certain product consumption profiles. and information on digital social networks. It is through these networks that the spread of fake news reaches an exponential audience.
In this scenario, we consider that the so-called fake news is the vehicle that propagates disinformation to establish social control through the production of information that interests specific groups. Fake news is a valuable asset in the information market, as the logic of market power is perversely associated with the logic of power devices in contemporary society. Fake news producer groups look for ideal profiles on digital social networks for the dissemination of content, ideas, and values allegedly committed to the common good.

Fake News, Disinformation and Infodemic

Fake News is a relatively new term, and even though it is new, it has already generated quite heated discussions, as news presupposes information that has been verified, verified, information that has provenance. Therefore, the expression Fake News is an oxymoron, something that expresses concepts contraries, “which lends itself to undermining the credibility of information which does indeed meet the threshold of verifiability and public interest – ie real news” (Ireton & Posetti, 2018). For this reason, international news-checking institutions such as International Fact-Checking Network, an organization that brings together information checkers around the world and which in 2021 was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for “fighting lies”, ask that the terminology Fake News not be used and that we use the word disinformation instead.
But why use the term disinformation and not misinformation? Disinformation is false, dishonest, or inaccurate information that is deliberately intended to mislead, confuse or manipulate people. These deliberate attempts are often orchestrated. The term misinformation refers to misleading information created or disseminated without manipulative or malicious intent. despite the two be problems social, disinformation is “particularly dangerous because it is frequently organized, well resourced, and reinforced by automated technology” (Ireton & Posetti, 2018).
Finally, we come to infodemic, a recent phenomenon resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Pan American Health Organization, ” Infodemic refers to a large increase in the volume of information associated with a specific topic and whose growth can occur exponentially in a short time due to a specific incident, such as the current pandemic” (Pan American Health Organization, 2020).

An increasingly complex world

In the last decade of the 20th century, different studies (Hall, 2011; Bauman, 2005; Giddens, 2002) drew attention to the potentization of uncertainties as a direct consequence of the acceleration of modernity that drags everyone indiscriminately. Although Hall (2011), Bauman (2005), and Giddens (2002), in the quest to understand how this acceleration affects the constitution of subjects and the organization of institutions, build different arguments, it is possible to consider that the studies taken together show the complexity of the world as a result of the transformations of the modern period, which affect both social structures and subjectivities.
Speed, intensity, the scope of changes, the radicalization of processes indicate some of the elements that make the world increasingly complex. Complexity is perceived in situations and events that seem increasingly interconnected, overlapping, and unpredictable, resulting in intense changes in social life.
At the individual level, the complexity of the world produces confusion, anxiety, and uncertainty in people (Giddens, 2002; Bauman, 2005). This scenario is enhanced by the ocean of information in which people navigate daily with a speed that at the same time demands and makes a critical reflection on the contents accessed and shared.
The American anthropologist Jamais Cascio (2020) classifies the current world as BANI ( Brittle, Anxious, Nonlinear, Incomprehensible ) and considers that organizations and people must create new ways of interacting with and in this complex world and for that societies need to rescue human abilities to deal with the adversity of chaos.
In the current scenario, investing in media Literacy has emerged as a way to develop media skills in children and adults. One of these skills is the ability to critically understand reading and writing situations in technological contexts, reflecting on the inter and hypertextual context of content creation and the possible impacts of its dissemination. We recognize that this competence depends on stimulating complex thinking from a Freirean perspective. According to Freire: “problematic education is based on creativity and stimulates action and reflection on reality, thus responding to the vocation of men who are not authentic beings unless they are committed to creative search and transformation (1980, p. 81). ).
Media literacy needs to involve the whole of society through public policies that guarantee every user of information and communication technologies (ICTs) the constant exercise of filtering information and discarding those that present sensationalist or miraculous content and content out of social and historical context, which is certainly not easy, as it leads to the clash of conflicting interests.

Final considerations

As fake news is fabricated information based on inaccurate and false information, we can say that its basis is lies. The lie is practically the same age as humanity. It has always existed and in power games, it has always been an instrument of political and social control. In contemporary societies, with the intensification of communications, lying is potentiated to produce disinformation. The reasons are several: interests of political groups that are in power or that want to reach it; the architecture of social networking sites that makes it easy for highly accessed content to go viral; the internal willingness of social actors to share conspiracy theories and biased information.
In the reality we live in, in the virtual environment created through ICTs, stopping the distribution of disinformation is practically impossible. To understand this difficulty, we have to consider two aspects. First, we have to understand that, as Lévy (2000) would say, cyberspace is more than the material infrastructure of digital communication. Cyberspace is also the oceanic universe of information that is there and the people who navigate and feed on that universe. Second, we have to understand that we are a complex society (Morin, 2015), with complex, overlapping, intertwined problems that are not simple to combat because a solution to a current problem can generate a future problem. In a complex society, we have very different groups and very different political, social, and ideological interests. This generates an intense power struggle, in which technology appears as a mediator of this entire process. But complex does not necessarily mean complicated. A complex world means that it is organized into closely associated layers and that to understand these layers, we have to seek knowledge at all times and in many different places. And to be able to account for everything that is happening, in this arena of disputes of intentionality, a possible medium, and long-term solution is an investment in Education for a complex world. This does not mean that the average Literacy will save humanity from all problems, but through it, it is possible to enable people to interpret information, relate and make decisions with a critical sense.

References

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Claudia Pires de Castro holds a MA in Communication Science from the University of Vienna. She has a Postgraduate in Marketing at Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing and a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Science at Fundação Armando Alvares hairstyle. Now she is a Master’s Student in Political Science at the University of Vienna.
Helena Vetorazo is Ph.D. Candidate in Social Sciences in Education from University of Campinas (UNICAMP); She received her master’s degree in Social Sciences from the University of Campinas and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences from the University of São Paulo.
Ivete Dorr Labres is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Social Psychology from the Universidad Argentina John F. Kennedy. She received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the Universidad Argentina John F. Kennedy, a Master in Business Sciences from Fernando Pessoa University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the Universidade do Rio dos Sinos (Unisinos).
All authors are members of the BRAS Research Group Social Media Studies

Claudia Pires de Castro, Helena Vetorazo and Ivete Dorr Labres (2022) "Fake News, Disinformation and Democracy: A Necessary Discussion". Brazilian Research and Studies Blog. ISSN 2701-4924. Vol. 3 Num. 1. available at: https://bras-center.com/fake-news-disinformation-and-democracy-a-necessary-discussion/, accessed on: May 21, 2022.