Narrative warfare in the digital age

Grégoire MALLARD
Dominic EGGEL

The digitalisation of our ways of life, alongside the frantic growth of social media, has opened up new, value-generating opportunities for data collection, analysis and repackaging (algorithms, automation, AI). These changes have profoundly transformed the global informational landscape, with equally profound political consequences. The formation of public opinion is no longer based on the separation between legitimate producers of information (traditional media gatekeepers) and consumers (readers of the press and TV audiences), or between the creation of "truths" (assessed according to professional standards of proof) and "lies" (intentional state propaganda, for example), but on the blurring of boundaries between various sets of discourses. This blurring of boundaries, together with automated and AI-enhanced techniques to produce "public opinion", has led to the generalisation of new forms of disinformation and "fake news". The frontlines of ideological struggles for the "hearts and minds" of global publics have thus become more elusive in the digital age compared to the Cold War era, when ideologies confronted each other via printing presses, TVs and radio broadcasting. According to some philosophers and social scientists, the deeper entanglement of the digital world with our lives and the resulting fragmented global information system raise profound issues for our common humanity.