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Online Disinformation and Homeland Security

Noticing and Articulating the Problem

The world is confronting an increasing flow of disinformation within cyberspace. Examples incorporate the spread of cyber-rumors by social media bots during French elections within the Macron Leaks attack or the partisan messages during Brexit in the United Kingdom. Thus, the growing threat of conspiracy theories that negatively impact social media users has posed a global threat to the US homeland security. Therefore, the government acknowledges the possible consequences of dismissing the matter, including the danger to American citizens’ well-being, the vulnerability of state propaganda, and a threat to global security.

Posing Vital Questions

The ongoing problem poses various fruitful questions that need to be explored to fully comprehend the homeland security relations to the disinformation on the Internet. First, it is essential to discover what government areas are threatened by the disinformation the most. Currently, cyber-rumors are widely considered a cyberthreat by different government agencies are. One of the primary areas affected by disinformation is the electoral system in the United States. Thus, foreign forces influence the elections by actively spreading conspiracy theories, rumors, and other harmful content online.

Therefore, academics believe that the direct threat to the nation’s security should influence “senior administration officials to articulate clearly and repeatedly the country’s determination to deter foreign interference in elections and attempts to disrupt our democracy” (Barrett et al. 27). Another vital segment influenced by disinformation is healthcare. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released an official statement mentioning that an essential part of the COVID-19 containment is the prevention of disinformation (“Weekly Update: DHS Response”). This percussion is essential as conspiracy theories are directly influencing the well-being of the nations because rumors lead individuals to act irrationally.

After understanding the central threats of online disinformation, it is essential to discover how homeland security can be responsible for challenging the issue. Broadly, Cybersecurity is one of the major topics of the DHS agenda. The 2018 National Cyber Strategy has affirmed that the US will apply all suitable means of the national authority to “expose and counter the flood of online malign influence and information campaigns and non-state propaganda and disinformation” (United States, the White House 21). The further explanation involved cooperation with foreign state partners, businesses academia, and the public in recognizing, countering, and stopping the use of online platforms to spread disinformation. Therefore, the US government, and DHS in particular, have recognized the importance of taking appropriate actions.

Moreover, homeland security agents are responsible for promoting reliable sources of information. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued the COVID-19 Disinformation Toolkit (“Weekly Update: DHS Response”). It is intended to assist government and state administrators in learning more about dangerous disinformation and conspiracy theories appearing online related to COVID-19. Nevertheless, some scholars suggest that only some political groups have indicated that online disinformation is a homeland security issue (Korta 27). In general, homeland security specialists have not entirely acknowledged how conspiracy theories can influence the efficiency and security of emergency administrators, police officers, and citizens. Overall, the DHS is responsible for various cyber-related issues; however, some noticed that their disinformation efforts have not been consistent.

Lastly, one of the most vital questions concerning disinformation online and government involvement is whether possible state intervention into the cyber-space poses a threat to the First Amendment. Literature suggests that this issue is crucial because the danger of disinformation produces challenging debates among homeland security specialists, politicians, and the public (Korta 15). The uncomfortable discussion is centered around which freedom of expression, and privacy regulations should be incorporated. Thus, one of the primary concerns is whether the government should or should not monitor social media posts and other online means of information. Overall, individual ideas and beliefs might be considered opinions by one group of people and a conspiracy by the other.

The DHS is not actively involved in internet surveillance practices due to the privacy concern; however, certain levels of regulations are imposed on social media companies. South Korean study discovered that residents’ state Internet surveillance criticisms raised their cyber-rumor practices (Kwon and Rao 307). The influence was especially notable during the time of homeland security threat. The article concludes that residents’ disinformation tendencies were partly encouraged by their concerns about government surveillance arrangements as it is intrinsically connected to individual privacy and freedom speech. Overall, the disinformation tactic of direct government intervention can be harmful to homeland security professionals’ work unless the state adjusts its monitoring policy with the public’s informational online standards.

Identifying the Stakes

The US government had numerously acknowledged the dangers of cyber-rumors for homeland security. Thus, reports and official statements of the DHS has claimed that Cybersecurity is essential for the national defense. The problem is regarded as significant because of the adverse consequences of conspiracy theories and fake news. Thus, the lack of appropriate measures taken by homeland security professionals may lead to compromised elections, health-related crises, and threaten the well-being of a nation. Lastly, since this issue is widely spread, America’s position in the International arena can also be influenced by disinformation online. Therefore, the stakes of not addressing the problem are particularly high, leading to dangerous results.

Providing Recommendations

Although homeland security programs should be directly responsible for maintaining safe and reliable cyberspace, some scholars criticize government intervention. Thus, the literature criticizing Internet surveillance suggests that if people do not trust their state’s informational sincerity, disinformation could become anti-government (Kwon and Rao 315). Therefore, the lack of an appropriate plan may lead to the failure of homeland security efforts. The argument is valid; however, the US government is also visibly concerned with the issue of privacy and trust. The National Cyber Strategy states that “The United States Government conceptualizes Internet freedom as the online exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (United States, the White House 24). Therefore, the DHS forces are not attempting to abuse their powers by limiting the essential to all citizens’ constitutional rights. Overall, ignoring the problem is not sustainable, as cyber-rumors have posed a direct threat to American democracy.

Works Cited

Barrett, Paul, et al. “Combating Russian Disinformation: The Case for Stepping Up the Fight Online.” NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, 2018, pp. 1–33, Web.

Korta, Samantha. “Fake News, Conspiracy Theories, and Lies: An Information Laundering Model for Homeland Security.” Homeland Security Affairs, 2018, pp. 1-131, Web.

Kwon, K. Hazel, and H. Raghav Rao. “Cyber-Rumor Sharing under a Homeland Security Threat in the Context of Government Internet Surveillance: The Case of South-North Korea Conflict.” Government Information Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 2, 2017, pp. 307–316, Web.

United States, the White House. “National Cyber Strategy of the United States of America” 2018, Web.

“Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19”. The Department of Homeland Security, 2020, Web.


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