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Why Disinformation Is a Brand Problem

In the age of data breaches and hackers, companies know that cybersecurity is an issue that they should take seriously. And it’s reflected in their investments. In 2017 companies invested 23% more in their cybersecurity strategy. But there’s a key part that is missing from this investment, and it’s how much companies are shelling out to defend themselves from disinformation and brand manipulation.

We’ve seen how disinformation have influenced our elections as evidenced by the most recent presidential election. But it’s not only our elections at risk, brands can also be wrongfully cast into the spotlight. Companies need to think about what disinformation solution to put in place to defend themselves from these types of digital threats, because disinformation is both a cybersecurity and brand problem.

Disinformation is a cybersecurity threat

Disinformation, by contrast, is a new breed of a cybersecurity threat. It’s an attack on cognitive infrastructure, on people themselves, on society, and on systems of information and belief. Its targets are widespread, making it a large and dangerous problem. Corporations and media have responded by refuting false or misleading information: defending themselves by trying to correct the record. This is ineffective. By the time a disinformation campaign has reached the public, the damage has often already been done.

Without a next-generation security strategy, highly visible brands, democratic processes, and the entire information ecosystem are vulnerable. It’s time to change how we think about propaganda, disinformation, and false information: it’s not about fake news, it’s an adversarial attack in the information space.

How disinformation targets brands

Since the 2016 election, most media coverage of disinformation risk has focused on Russia’s interference and mass manipulation of social media in elections. Disinformation isn’t just unique to politics though. This problem extends beyond elections, and is a significant fundamental problem for brands and other organizations that consumers have come to trust.

Often times, a current event or polarizing news surrounding a brand can be the trigger or “in” that trolls and bot networks need to make a false narrative they are pushing seem believable. From there coordinated accounts can expand their reach and push these messages forward into the mainstream. The more shares and likes, the further the message spreads. Once it hits the mainstream, it runs the risk of the press picking it up and covering it. At that point it is an issue that is highly public, and can be challenging for a brand to discredit and will require an entire crisis management plan.

The brand reputation risk

The goal of disinformation is to intentionally inflict damage on a target. In the case of brands, disinformation campaigns are designed to impact the reputation and public perception of a brand that they may have been loyal to and trusted.

According to a report on earned brand by Edelman, 1 in 3 customers won’t purchase from a brand based on their public behavior. If accounts are amplifying false narratives, this could run the risk of framing a brand in a certain light or associating them with views that they do not actually support. This could jeopardize the trust that customers have in brand, and ultimately cost them loyal customers and sales.

Brand trust can’t be rebuilt overnight. It can take many years for a company to recover from a brand reputation disaster. But taking a proactive approach to how you can protect your brand from a disinformation attack or brand manipulation can be the first step in the right direction of preserving public trust.

To learn more about disinformation and how it is impacting brands, download our State of Disinformation ebook for actionable insights and key takeaways for how companies can take the right defense measures.

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