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Why Disinformation Can Be So Damaging

It is not news that social media is being manipulated at a massive scale. A study from Statista shows that 61% of Americans think that more than half of the news and information they see on social media is inaccurate. But this is more than just fake news, it’s instead something larger. It’s coordinated disinformation campaigns that can put a brand’s reputation and integrity at risk.

In the digital age we live in, where we spread and consume the majority of information online, disinformation is thriving off of brand’s online presences. Social media companies have been slow to create disinformation solutions to protect their users, and in turn are leaving their entire information ecosystem vulnerable and susceptible to an attack. This requires more than just a fact checking solution, or hoping that Twitter will ban malicious accounts. When evaluating what makes disinformation a real cybersecurity threat and comparing it to other forms of cyber attack tactics, disinformation can seem simple in nature. But it’s the simplicity of creating these campaigns and its ability to spread organically that can make disinformation so damaging for brands.

When taking a deeper look into the threat it poses to brands today, there are 3 components that make up why disinformation can be so damaging to brands.

Cheap barrier to entry

One of the reasons disinformation can be so damaging, is that it requires very little spend to get a defamatory campaign up and running. All it takes is a small group of people working together to intentionally create a false narrative and hitting “post” on social media; no coding or hacking required. While more sophisticated campaigns leverage social media advertising and buy bot networks, in general it does not require a big budget to put disinformation campaigns into play. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it can cost brands under attack a heaping starting price of $600,000, according to Accenture.

Social media as an amplifier

Social media has exponentially increased the amount of information we see. With the average person having at least 5 social media accounts, and spending a collective 2 hours a day on them, we are constantly connected and taking in potentially similar messages on different channels.

With a valid email address, anyone can sign up for a social media account and begin posting. And the platforms are designed for content to go viral. In no time at all, a false malicious tweet targeting a brand can be picked up, liked, shared and retweeted by thousands of other users. Social media has given disinformation a life cycle, that moves from posting, to general amplification, and then media exposure. Before brands have a chance to react, disinformation campaigns can spread and become headlines in coverage from major news outlets.

Jeopardizes brand integrity

Disinformation undermines a brand’s integrity as reputation damage can happen in an instant. A social listening tool can tell brands when they receive hundreds of new mentions in minutes, but can’t detect whether the campaign is orchestrated or authentic…or where the narrative originated.

Whether it is fake accounts spreading rumors, social media manipulation, or coordinated groups leaving fake reviews, disinformation hurts your reputation. While brands are at the center of negative reviews and customer feedback daily, it’s the act of these narrative being coordinated that can create false sentiment surrounding a brand. A disinformation attack has the ability to undermine a brand’s reputation, integrity, and most importantly the trust it has built with its consumers over years. Lost brand trust can ultimately mean lost customers or “lost for now” customers that will take time to rebuild that trust.

Overall disinformation attacks are not threats to be taken lightly. It’s up to brands to remain vigilant and seek brand manipulation protection to keep these types of social media security risks from damaging their brand or putting them at the center of a controversy.

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