In recent years, disinformation has become such a widespread phenomenon that it may be impossible to describe it with a single overarching and agreed-upon definition. Until recently, what attracted the most public attention was the dissemination of “fake news.” But that is just one manifestation of a much broader phenomenon.
Disinformation in the digital age is increasingly understood as an all-encompassing phenomenon that takes place at multiple levels of mechanisms of production, consumption and dissemination of information, and whose influence infiltrates every realm of life in human society. It undermines the stability of political, economic and ecological systems over the world, invades the mechanisms of essential inter- disciplinary decision-making in realms such as health, security and environment, and fans the flames of ideological and cultural tensions that threaten to disintegrate the social fabric and the democratic system. The COVID-19 pandemic, which from the outset was accompanied by what has become dubbed as the “Infodemic”, greatly increased public recognition of the burning need to create protective mechanisms against this combined attack, in Israel and throughout the world.
One of the main channels today being advanced in various countries around the world is in the realm of legislation and regulation. Indeed, legislation regarding the dissemination of disinformation, regulation of the information and data market, and oversight of how information is collected, processed and circulated by tech companies are essential steps. Nevertheless, they are not enough. Such a holistic problem, with so many manifestations and abstract ramifications, also requires a holistic response.
Therefore, alongside legislation and regulation from above, there is a need for civic infrastructure to deal with the effects of disinformation on the ground, to help protect the democratic frameworks and build social digital resilience.
In Israel, which had been undergoing an ongoing political crisis prior to the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19, a non- governmental civil infrastructure for dealing with disinformation is particularly essential. And yet, in order to harness the power of civil society in Israel for this mission without government involvement, a different approach must be adopted from that taken until now.
At the battlefront in the struggle against disinformation in Israel is the obstacle of scattered resources and knowledge that are not being properly harnessed. Due to the lack of information exchange and of collaboration between actors specializing in content and disinformation distribution networks, those dealing with the technological aspects of the phenomenon, and the ones tackling its social, economic and political aspects, the understanding of the phenomenon of disinformation in Israel, including its characteristics and effects, remains fragmentary and lacking, as does the ability to address it effectively.
The present paper is intended to forge a path for establishing and strengthening a non- governmental, civil path for dealing with disinformation in Israel through the creation of a designated hub that will harness the power of activists in the field.
Table of contents
1.1 Limited Understanding of Mis- and
Disinformation in the Public and Political Discourse
1.2 Scattered Resources and Knowledge, and Lack of
Connectedness between the Various Actors in the Field
1.3 The Problem: Incoherent Picture and Inaccessible Knowledge –
Leads to Incoherent Movement and Difficulty in Catalyzing Change
02 Overview of Alternatives and Approaches to Action
2.1 Cross-Sector Coalitions and Collaborations
03 The Way Forward: A Designated “Disinfo Hub” to Advance a
Whole-of-Society Approach to Tackle Disinformation in Israel
04 Next Steps towards Implementation
4.1 First Stage: Mapping the Arena
4.2 Second Stage: Creating a Space of Action and Body of Knowledge
4.3 Action Framework
05 Concluding Remarks