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Beyond Post-Communication

Challenging Disinformation, Deception, and Manipulation

Jim Macnamara

While many analyses have examined disinformation in recent election campaigns, misuse of ‘big data’ such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and manipulation by bots and algorithms, most have blamed a few bad actors. This incisive analysis presents evidence of deeper and broader corruption of the public sphere, which the author refers to as post-communication. With extensive evidence, Jim Macnamara argues that we are all responsible for the slide towards a post-truth society. This analysis looks beyond high profile individuals such as Donald Trump, Russian trolls, and even ‘Big Tech’ to argue that the professionalized communication industries of advertising, PR, political and government communication, and journalism, driven by clickbait and aided by a lack of critical media literacy, have systematically contributed to disinformation, deception, and manipulation. When combined with powerful new communication technologies, artificial intelligence, and lack of regulation, this has led to a ‘perfect data storm’. Accordingly, Macnamara proposes that there is no single solution. Rather, he identifies a range of strategies for communication professionals, industry associations, media organizations and platforms, educators, legislators, regulators, and citizens to challenge post-communication and post-truth.
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4. Technologies Turbocharging Post-Communication

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Accelerating and compounding the escalation from spin and clickbait to fabrication, disinformation, and malpractices such as manipulative marketing and political campaigns is the rapid evolution of information and communication technologies (ICTs) that have the potential to turbocharge what is referred to here as post-communication. I hesitate to say that technological development is unprecedented, as many do. Human history has been characterized by waves of innovation and technological change. The invention of alphabets and writing, the steam engine, and machine-powered flight triggered what could arguably be described as some of the most momentous changes in human civilisation. Notwithstanding, few could disagree that developments in computers and information transmission systems have been rapid over the past few decades and that societies are on the cusp of further disruptive change.

After going public in 2004, Facebook has become the most-used media platform in history with 2.5 billion active monthly users at the beginning of 2020. Every day, more than 1.6 billion people used Facebook in 20191 and spent an average of ←143 | 144→more than 40 minutes on the platform daily.2 Video sharing site YouTube, owned by Google, follows close behind with 1.68 billion monthly users worldwide and predictions for this to grow to 1.86 billion global users by 2021.3 More than one billion people use Google products every day, including the Google search engine that provides 1.2 trillion online searches a year,4 as well as the Google Chrome web browser and the Android operating system that Google now owns....

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