Combating the Dark Side of the Digital Age - Disinformation, Misinformation, and Malign Influence

Empowering Digital Cognitive Defense: Unveiling Deception, Democratizing Tradecraft, and Safeguarding Our Way of Life

By George Hlaing and Eric Nguyen


In today's digital age, where the tap of a finger can sway public opinion and influence global affairs, the proliferation of false online information has become an undeniable force. The spread of misinformation, disinformation, and malign influence (DMMI) has reached unprecedented levels, casting a pervasive shadow over our digital landscape, and presenting formidable challenges to our societies, economies, and democratic principles we care dearly.

The Cost of DMMI

The ramifications of DMMI became strikingly apparent throughout the first quarter of 2024, emphasizing the critical need to address this pervasive threat urgently. From AI-generated deepfake images on social media platforms to fabricated news stories fueling financial fraud, the impact of DMMI is profound and far-reaching.

In January, the X platform (formerly Twitter) took action to block searches for Taylor Swift due to the circulation of AI-generated deepfake images of the singer. This incident underscored the alarming ease with which false information can be manufactured and disseminated. Similarly, in February, a deepfake video call in Hong Kong led to a staggering financial fraud amounting to US$25 million, exposing vulnerabilities in our financial infrastructure. Furthermore, the French defense ministry denounced Russian disinformation falsely claiming plans to deploy 2,000 troops to Ukraine, highlighting the complexities of global geo-political conflicts. In Australia, the National Anti-Scam Centre reported that scams promoted in fake news articles and deepfake videos cost Australians over $8 million in 2023, with over 400 reports of investment scams.

These incidents highlight the imperative need for decisive action against the rising tide of false information online.

Navigating the Complex Terrain of DMMI

Combatting DMMI is no straightforward task; it requires a delicate balance between safeguarding freedom of speech and curbing the spread of harmful falsehoods. Crafting effective policies and regulations in this realm demands a nuanced understanding and collaboration across diverse sectors.

One of the foremost challenges lies in the unchecked proliferation of false information on social media platforms. Algorithms engineered to maximise user engagement often prioritise sensationalist content over factual accuracy, perpetuating echo chambers where misinformation thrives. Additionally, advancements in AI technology have facilitated the creation of convincing deepfake content, further blurring the distinction between truth and fiction.

Empowering Digital Citizens

To address the complexities of DMMI, we must prioritise digital literacy and education initiatives. Equipping individuals with the skills to critically evaluate information and discern manipulation tactics is pivotal in navigating the digital landscape responsibly. This includes educating individuals on how to fact-check sources and recognize the psychological mechanisms exploited to manipulate cognitive biases.

Moreover, ensuring access to tools and resources for combating DMMI is imperative. Technology companies bear a responsibility to develop algorithms prioritising accuracy and transparency, while platforms should offer user-friendly tools for verifying sources and reporting suspicious content.

A Call to Action

The responsibility of combating DMMI cannot rest solely on governments or technology companies. It necessitates a collaborative effort involving civil society organizations, educators, and individual citizens. By uniting forces, we can devise comprehensive strategies to combat disinformation and uphold the integrity of our digital discourse.

Inaction is no longer a viable option. It's time for decisive measures to safeguard truth, trust, and democracy in the digital age. While the stakes are undeniably high, the cost of inaction far exceeds the challenges of confronting the dark side of the digital era head-on.

Together, let's fortify our digital defenses, expose deception, democratize tradecraft, and safeguard our way of life.

If you wish to attend a one-day masterclass and learn more about DMMI, please click here to secure a ticket on 18 June 2024 at the ACS Canberra Hub (Corner of Northbourne Ave and Bunda St, Entrance via Bunda St). Suite 3, Level 5, 64 Northbourne Ave, Canberra ACT 2601

About the authors

George Hlaing, the Founder and Managing Partner at National Consulting Partners, has over two decades of expertise in the realms of business technology transformation and cyber security. His dedication extends beyond his professional achievements; as an Honorary Adjunct Professor at the University of Canberra, George demonstrates a profound commitment to societal advancement and the fostering of Public-Private Partnerships. His collaborations span academic institutions, think tanks, and professional organisations such as Australian Computer Society, ISACA and ISC2, highlighting his multifaceted contributions to both industry and community.

Eric Nguyen, a member of the Australian Computer Society and Gartner Peer Ambassador, boasts 20 years of experience in technology. He excels in telecom, finance, HR, and ICT operations utilising automation, data analytics and AI.

If you would like to know more about our work or leveraging a trust framework, contact George Hlaing at and Eric Nguyen at

Learn more about National Consulting Partners, click here and follow us on LinkedIn.

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