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disinformation | fake news | post-truth

[David Alandete. Fake News: The new weapon of mass destruction. publishing house Planeta. Barcelona, 2019. 296 pp]


review / Naiara Goñi Pérez

Fake News: The New Weapon of Mass Destruction

The field of defense and security today is not only limited to the military field, but having acquired greater dimensions, it requires a global approach . Cybersecurity requires more attention than ever, as it affects both the defense Structures and the civilian population (this is known as "hybrid conflict"). The fields of information sciences, communication, political and social sciences are equally affected; here their threat goes under the names of fake news, disinformation, emotional truths, post-truths....

The book "Fake News: The New Weapon of Mass Destruction" is a research about the dimension and presence that disinformation has acquired in the media. In his book, the author points out the lack of protection to which journalists are subjected at a time when control over the distribution of information has been lost, due, among other factors, to the proliferation of social networks. The motivation for the book itself arises from a smear campaign suffered by the author himself, who from the pages of El País, the newspaper where he was directly employed attachment, denounced the presence of both Russian actors and Julian Assange, creator of Wikileaks, in the Catalan conflict.

David Alandete provides a large number of sources to support his arguments. He supports his account with numerous examples of fake news, details the methods used to spread disinformation and reference letter programs of study that measure the impact of these practices on democracy.

Although, as mentioned above, the purpose of the book is to document the role of fake news and disinformation around the Catalan referendum of 1-O. Alandete also addresses other examples of interference, such as Brexit, the yellow vests protests in France, the German elections....

A total of 20 chapters make up the structure of the book, with headlines taken from disinformation campaigns, such as "Tanks in the streets of Barcelona" or "Nobody could expect this to happen in a country as prosperous as Germany", which give an idea of what will be uncovered and disproved in the following pages.

Disinformation seeks, broadly speaking and in the author's own words, to recreate an alternative reality in which the sources of information are often points of view or opinions and are generally manipulated. Another characteristic feature is the absence of signature, which makes it difficult to trace the veracity of a particular content and impossible to hold its author accountable. The main goal behind these campaigns is to destabilize democracy, and is carried out by "studying the fears of each country, appealing to the most deeply rooted problems in each society and publishing dubious or outright false information to create divisions". The main architects are the media that amplify the news (the growth of bots on employment is alarming); they are also allied with a decisive factor pointed out at the beginning of the book: "Human psychology is the main reason for the success of disinformation".

The interest of Alandete's work lies in the analysis of the status once the disinformation machinery has acted. Spain is a clear example of passivity in the face of this challenge, since, as the author points out, in the case of the illegal referendum held in Catalonia in 2018 "there was no foresight or strategy. The communication battle was lost beforehand." However, countries like Germany promoted the law against fake news before the elections. The truth is that these measures involve a tension between freedom of expression and sanctions for disinformation. To overcome this dilemma, preventive measures should be put in place to eradicate the problem without subjugating freedom of expression.

The great contribution of the book is, without a doubt, to illustrate this "theory of disinformation" with practical and real examples of the. In final, his purpose to base his arguments on an objective research convinces the reader that indeed, fake news is the new weapon of mass destruction, whose goal is to destabilize democracies.

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