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News | Sept. 26, 2022

NITAM: Critical thinking in digital spaces – Disinformation

By DCMA Security

Defense Contract Management Agency’s Counter-Insider Threat Program team (login required) champions National Insider Threat Awareness Month (login required) to ensure good practices keep the agency community safe in the digital world.

Terrorist actors use the online environment in differing capacities ranging from recruitment for anti-government activities to less subtle activities such as normalizing violent hate speech and encouraging individuals to support or commit acts of violence and spreading disinformation.

Disinformation is information created to mislead, harm or manipulate. Prominent disinformation campaigns include the spread of false information throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the past election.

How many times did you read information from either of those two campaigns that caused you to become extremely emotional? Did you drop certain friends who didn’t agree with your viewpoint? Those actions and reactions are common among viewers of disinformation and are designed to subtly influence you to take action.

Don’t be fooled as disinformation is not just text and graphics, even videos and speeches can be faked. Check out this Deepfakes video for more on disinformation.

Exercising critical thinking can help you to see clearly and take appropriate cautions so that you do not fall prey to these influences.

What is critical thinking?
Critical thinking is an analytical form of thinking in which you question, analyze, interpret, evaluate, and make an educated and informed decision about the information received.

Critical thinking is a vital part of every instance of insider threat. Validating information, reviewing information from differing perspectives, and ensuring biases, perceptions and preconceived notions are all stripped out. Assumptions are challenged so that only the facts are left.

Key steps to identify disinformation include:

  • Consider the source: Is this a reputable or known source or some random pop-up in your news feed?
  • Validate the source: Is the source legitimate? Are other reputable sources reporting the same?
  • Identify the author: If the author is listed, review other works by the author, check out the author’s biography, and verify that the author is respected. Information without an author listed should be automatically suspect.
  • Inspect the URL: Just as you would inspect and verify any URL prior to clicking, verify the URL. Is it .gov or .go, or
  • Check grammar: Most legitimate publications review documents for spelling and punctuation prior to publication. Poorly written documents are as suspect as poorly written emails.
  • Look at alternative viewpoints: If you find limited or no information, additional fact-checking is needed.
  • Think before you link or share: Disinformation is flagged periodically by some social media platforms. This can brand you as someone who posts disinformation and cause you to be blocked by social media or cause damage to your reputation when the information is proved false.

Employing critical thinking strategies will help you to identify disinformation campaigns.

For more information on Insider Threat Awareness, visit the agency’s Counter-Insider Threat Program 365 page (login required). To try the reporting demonstration, click here (login required) and discover how your vigilance protects DCMA’s warfighter support mission.