DISINFORMATION LAW IN THE CONTEXT OF DEMOCRATIC PROCESSES
Dr. İpek Z. Ruacan
This report consists of three chapters. The first chapter, “Disinformation in the Context of the Global Climate Crisis and Geopolitical Power Struggle,” focuses on the definition of disinformation. This chapter discusses the prominent methods employed to confront disinformation, which means intentionally spreading false information, and the ambiguities.
The second chapter, “Between the Illegal and the Unethical: Disinformation in Electoral Processes from the Great Lie to Micro-Targeting,” covers the specific type of disinformation, disinformation in electoral processes. The chapter touches upon the dramatic events ranging from the death threats addressed to the election workers in the US to the electoral activities of Black Cube, which is a company founded by the experts retired from the intelligence agency of Israel, MOSSAD. Micro-targeting voters, which provokes unanswered questions, is also a topic of the second chapter.
The third chapter, “Building a Shared Truth Together: Post-Modern Journalism, Electoral Alliances and Inclusion,” examines the impact of disinformation on journalism while commenting on the debate around the possibilities of paradigm repair. Alliances which are formed with the aim of preventing electoral disinformation, inclusive journalism projects and their applicability in Turkey are among the topics of this last chapter.
The conclusion of the report indicates that we need to discuss disinformation and especially electoral disinformation further;
- Global Crisis: Disinformation is directly related to the global crisis of democracy and the ongoing geopolitical power struggle between the East and the West.
- Elections in the shadow of disinformation: Electoral disinformation is a special kind of disinformation which aims to manipulate the whole electoral process and its results. Its most destructive effect is that it damages the public trust in elections and ultimately in democracy.
- The purpose is either stability or instability: Disinformation is used by the authoritarian governments themselves in order to affirm the legitimacy of the system whereas it is practiced mostly by the external actors in order to make the system appear illegitimate in democratic regimes. While the purpose of disinformation is stability and the continuity of the government in the former case, it is instability and the change of government in the latter. Turkey, which is gradually becoming more authoritarian, can be considered to be in the former category where the practice of disinformation is used by the government itself in addition to Russian disinformation which has also a certain influence.
- The culture of Silicon Valley is against regulations: The measures taken by the social media companies are far from being sufficient in regard to preventing disinformation. The hegemony of the libertarian culture over Silicon Valley is an obstacle against more effective measures.
- Restriction is not a solution: Restrictions implemented by the public authorities cannot prevent disinformation. They channel disinformation into the end-to-end encrypted platforms instead. The law that went into effect on 18th October, 2022 in Turkey and is known as “the Disinformation Law” is considered to have a similar effect.
- Between rationality and sentimentality: Democracy goes hand in hand with rationality as opposed to populism which is associated with sentimentality.
- Micro-targeting voters brings about new debates: Fracturing a holistic democratic platform with algorithms, micro-targeting is used to manipulate democratic elections. The European Union demands that micro-targeting should be subject to user consent like cookies.
- A new paradigm repair in journalism: The most effective way to fight disinformation, especially the electoral one, is to make the public reach the quality news before disinformation takes effect. In order to achieve this, a paradigm repair is necessary in the media industry in order to rebuild the public confidence.
- Alliances of journalists before elections: Reverso (Argentina), Comprova (Brazil), and RedCheq (Colombia) are among the successful examples of alliances formed by journalists to fight electoral disinformation.
- Journalism that exceeds modernity: Another step in the paradigm repair is to replace a type of journalism which is tightly connected to modernity with an inclusive kind of journalism that is based on empathy and postmodernity.
- Structural obstacles in Turkey: The structure of the media landscape in Turkey which includes partisanship makes alliances between journalists more difficult. Moreover, the lack of a dedicated audience is also a challenge for inclusive journalism.
Dr. İpek Z. Ruacan graduated from Bilkent University, Department of International Relations in 2000. She completed her master’s degree in the same field at the London School of Economics in 2002 and then gained her PhD in Political Science and International Studies from the University of Birmingham in 2014. Having worked as a lecturer at MEF, Koç and Kadir Has universities, Dr. Ruacan contributes to NewsLabTurkey with research reports.