Deliberately feeding political misinformation through “fake news” has, for long, been a major issue in international and domestic politics. Information is extremely powerful tool for influencing events around the world. The rapid growth of the internet allows such misinformation to spread much easier and much further than ever before creating a dangerous environment.
The spread of misinformation combined with “ulterior motives” of specific political figures and groups could potentially have devastating consequences. The impact is even greater “in societies that are unstable or weak or divided along sectarian lines in the first place,” says Dr Rickli in reference to the Middle East.
The Middle East is currently facing a major diplomatic crisis where the spread of misinformation is current currency. In the context of the Qatar-Gulf diplomatic crisis both sides are relying on sources of information that contradict each other. Similarly a recent spread of false news in Lebanon claiming that Hezbollah has kidnapped a top-ranking Mossad intelligence officer also illustrates how information has become a weapon of modern conflict.
The latter case builds on realities of past occurrences. The abduction of Israeli soldiers resulted in the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. According to Dr Rickli, this is the “most powerful” form of falsified news as it could lead to fresh conflict.