Misinformation, Disinformation And How Tech Distorts Democracy

After U.S. intelligence authorities concluded Russia deliberately attempted to influence the 2016 election, voters wonder: Is our democracy safe from disinformation?

Photo credit: Jake Neher/WDET

In recent years, the worlds of technology and politics have become increasingly intertwined. Various platforms each have their own policies around political ads and content of that nature, but one giant is standing apart from the rest: Facebook. The tech behemoth’s contentious political ad policy lacks any real oversight, allowing politicians to say just about anything.

Defining 2020: Disinformation vs. misinformation

Misinformation: Stewart says “misinformation is basically information that is wrong that is shared, we don’t know the intent of the person sharing.

Disinformation: “Disinformation is a deliberate campaign, that’s what you saw with Russia in 2016.”​

Detroit Today continues the Defining 2020 series and this time host Stephen Henderson takes a look at some of the biggest stories happening around tech, politics and disinformation.

Click on the player to hear the full conversation on tech and disinformation in the 2020 election.


Peter Kafka, senior correspondent at Recode; host of Recode Media, the weekly podcast dedicated to the future of media and technology. Kafka recently wrote a piece for Vox about Facebook’s political ad policy last month. He and Henderson also discuss Iowa and the chaos around the caucuses.

“You’ve got this worst case scenario, people are still trying to figure it out and then on top of that you’ve got people who are trying to stir things up.” – Peter Kafka, Recode

Kafka says the resulting Twitter chaos surrounding the Iowa caucuses is a prime example of the “haze of war.” On the role of social media in information dissemination, Kafka says “this technology can be used for all kinds of purposes and a lot of them can be unintentionally bad.”

Emily Stewart, a reporter with Vox, covers the intersection of technology and politics.

“It feels like we are in a climate now where everyone feels uncertainty.” Emily Stewart, Vox

As far as what people can look for when trying to gauge the legitimacy of a story on social media, “If you see something that looks weird, give it a think, give it a Google,” says Stewart. 

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  • Detroit Today

    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.