Sep 30, 2020 - Technology

Wilson Center fellow warns of "disinformation laundering"

Nina Jankowicz, disinformation fellow at the Wilson Center

Axios technology correspodant Ina Fried (left) and Wilson Center disinformation fellow Nina Jankowicz. Photo: Axios

Experts are seeing malicious groups, both foreign and domestic, shift to more advanced campaigns of disinformation than they had in 2016, Nina Jankowicz, disinformation fellow at the Wilson Center, said Wednesday at an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: The method, called "disinformation laundering," targets false ideas or conspiracy theories that could become legitimized through media or public figures and politicians.

  • "In 2016, we saw a lot of inauthentic amplification through networks, trolls and bots, but in 2020 especially because there is greater awareness on behalf of the public, the government, the social media platforms about these tactics, what we’re seeing is disinformation laundering," she said.

The big picture: Disinformation, which stems from deliberately malicious campaigns of false information, has an effect on how U.S. democracy functions, Jankowicz said. The drivers of this chaos, like Russia's Kremlin and domestic groups, seek long-term repercussions.

  • "In the case we’re seeing right now ahead of the U.S. election, it is instilling distrust in our democratic system and the fact that people’s votes — the idea that their votes might not be counted, that they can't trust in local and state officials or federal officials," Jankowicz said.

Watch the event, Axios' Trust and Transparency, online at

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