For Jessica Cecil, today feels a bit like the Dark Ages after the fall of the Roman Empire, in which agreed-upon facts endure in only a few isolated places of elite discussion and there is no common language of politics.

Cecil, founder and former head of the Trusted News Initiative, a global alliance of major tech platforms and leading news organizations like the BBC, says the conflict in Ukraine has decisively established disinformation as a tool of warfare. And the West is fighting back, with considerable counterdisinformation firepower pointed at Russia and China as well as at home-grown targets such as the QAnon conspiracy in the United States.

But, Cecil asked at a RAND Europe event in London: “Are our guns all pointing in the right direction? Who, for instance, actually consumes disinformation? Are they the ill-informed who are different from—and perhaps patronized by—the better-educated?”

Cecil's take is that far from being passive or ignorant, consumers of disinformation tend to be more, rather than less, likely to be politically engaged. They often have more than an average education. It is simply that they are cynical about those elites who claim to know best.

For now, says Cecil, a Trustee of Bristol University and a member of RAND Europe's Council of Advisors, the West has failed to develop a coherent response.

Read the full article about combating disinformation by Jeffrey Hiday at RAND Corporation.