IO – PROI Worldwide, the leading network of PR and communications agencies, has issued an alert regarding a projected increase in fake news and misinformation in 2022. Based on the insights collected from communication experts in 50 countries, PROI expects an escalation of information attacks and a growing number of communication crises related to misinformation.
With the increased use of social media platforms and messaging apps, where information can be spread globally and democratically in a matter of seconds, PROI Agencies moan and admit that fake news is here to stay and the world can in fact expect an increase in such misinformation in 2022.
In general, fake news and misinformation can be damaging to any organization’s reputation, especially if such an organization becomes a target of a fabricated news attack. Such news can be disguised as having the intention to shape opinion or induce bias on targeted publics and communities, along with organizations.
The public relations profession emphasizes the importance of providing truthful and accurate information, as issued by the authorities only, with PR practitioners generally considered responsible for making sure that the information they disseminate is true and acceptable to their governments. PR professionals can also fall prey to incorrect report, with cleverly concocted reports disseminated by media practitioners or social media users, in spite of inaccuracies, or even deliberate falsehoods.
Information attacks, psyops and misinformation cannot be easily stopped, and can grow to become more sophisticated with technology. Throughout 2021, we often witnessed clever misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and officially-sanctioned vaccination information.
According to Check Point Software 2022 Cyber-security Predictions, the volume of advertisement groups for fake vaccines has multiplied in 2021. This year, cyber groups will continue to cast doubt on the efforts of Big Pharma and government bodies, leveraging fake news campaigns, up to and including cybercrimes, through various phishing attacks and scams.
Although misinformation regarding COVID was one of the most discussed cases, the problem of fake news is much wider, and can potentially affect any organization: “Organizations are confronted with issues and crisis-like fake news in varying degrees. However, when poorly handled with the official story changing repeatedly, no matter the degree of severity, an issue may turn into a full-blown crisis and may even jeopardize the viability of a business,” declared Jojo S. Nugroho, Managing Director, Imogen PR (Indonesia).
The sophistication and scale of cyberattacks will continue to break records, and we can expect a huge increase in the number of ransomware and mobile attacks. As mobile wallets and mobile payment platforms become used more frequently, cybercrimes will evolve and adapt their techniques to exploit a growing reliance on mobile devices.
“Looking ahead, organizations should be cognizant of threats, and ensure that they have in place a crisis preparedness plan that includes ways to overcome fake news and misinformation. It is imperative to stay ahead of threats and be proactive in developing a crisis preparedness plan before a crisis hit. Once the word spreads, a plan comes to activation, and you’ll have to fx it fast,” said Karin Lohitnavy, Founder and Master Connector, Midas PR Group.
PROI agencies have consistently proven themselves supporting the official line of governments and corporations on some of the world and the region’s most demanding strategic crisis communication projects. Clients include a range of publicly listed international companies, government-owned energy companies, medium sized businesses, start-ups, government departments, and not-for-profit organizations.
“At PROI, the world’s largest partnership of PR agencies, with 75 locally owned, independent consultancies present in 50 countries and 110 cities across the globe, we can deploy and draw a multi-disciplinary set of skills, experiences and resource,” said Lena Soh-Ng, PROI Crisis Group, APAC, Co-Chair and Senior Advisor and Founding Partner of Distilleri (Singapore).
“Planning is absolutely crucial. Planning for fake news attacks is comparable to preparing for a media crisis; be prepared for every possible situation, have a competent media team ready, and appoint trained and dedicated spokespeople who deliver a consistent message and response to all queries,” said Doy Roque, M2.0 Communications Inc. (Philippines).
“We strongly believe the most effective crisis preparedness plan is achieved through a close and trusted working partnership, where threats are identified, considered and planned for. A clear focus on priority risks, the establishment of a process that allows ongoing transparency of emerging risks, and the continual building of the organization’s team capability, will fortify a comprehensive Crisis Preparedness Plan,” warned Elaine Chuah, Executive Director, Priority Communications PR Sdn Bhd (Malaysia).