Three main actors are driving misinformation:
People trying to inform their friends and family without vetting the information; entities aiming to harm China’s ruling government; and “longer-term actors in the disinformation space that find this an extremely useful vehicle … to undermine trust in governments, NGOs and fact-based media,” Bergstrom says.
These include Russian and others’ trolls or information bots that deliberately rile up anger and confusion because that leads to countries losing “the ability to conduct any kind of effective democratic government,” Bergstrom adds.
“If you put out a lot of mutually contradictory misinformation, people will [eventually] give up believing in their ability to find the truth,” he says.
His UW colleague Jevin West, who says there’s an “information vacuum,” also points out, “Propagandists and opportunists make money off these situations.”