In October 2019, select U.S. officials offered closed-door congressional testimony regarding their knowledge of events surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Dr. Fiona Hill, a former adviser on President Donald Trump’s National Security Council, testified it was very likely Russian disinformation influenced the documents used to acquire a surveillance warrant on members of then-candidate Trump’s campaign. A January 2018 Wall Street Journal editorial by the Central Intelligence Agency’s former Moscow station chief, Daniel Hoffman, appears to support her assessment.
If even partially true, this is a significant development. It would force the national security enterprise to amend its understanding of disinformation’s potential to shape the national consciousness—a conversation that until recently has been defined by references to social media bots and Internet trolls.
Reporting on disinformation generally focuses on either violent extremists or hostile states deploying carefully crafted lies to influence portions of the civilian population by distorting their perception of the truth. But this was not always the case. In fact, this emphasis on public opinion is a rather nascent phenomenon. How did we get to this point, why is disinformation so prevalent, and what should the world expect from it going forward? The following analysis explores these increasingly important questions, and concludes that the skyrocketing volume, reach, and subtlety of disinformation from both states and non-state actors will make it harder to combat at the policy level in the future.
The district acknowledges, though, that survey results are “not fully indicative of the general population,” because 85% of those who responded either currently have a student in Madison schools or work for the district.