Globally in 2015, private organizations spent $84 billion on cybersecurity, an amount that has an estimate of $125 billion in 2020. Some researchers estimate that by 2030 that number could be as high as $90 trillion. This begs the question: how will governments react to the growing number and variety of cybersecurity threats?

Threats may come in various forms and scales of attacks. These attacks range from an individual actor, to an anonymous international cyber organization, all the way to a foreign national government. From my perspective, I view cyberattacks in the same way I view so-called ‘fake news’. Conspirators are gaining access to new technology and adopting new strategies faster than governments can react to the dispersion of fake news.

How The Government is Preventing Fake News

The U.S. government is currently developing programs that detect fake news and false information.

In the U.S. Department of Defense, as part of the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) program, Media Forensics has used AI to detect manipulated videos and photos.

These fake media outlets use visuals to show false information from the Internet. Whether this was specific program developed due to Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Elections is unclear. It is a great starting point by the government in the fight to counter the dissemination of false information.

Political Polarization

The spread of misinformation, especially during election seasons, has led to increased political polarization in numerous countries. This has led many democracies, including the United States and France, to see an increase in the targeting of political parties.

Many multinational companies, such as Microsoft, have taken initiative in defending the values of democracy. Microsoft’s “Defending Democracy Program” aims to tackle cybersecurity threats posed by foreign entities. They do this by protecting campaigns, increasing advertising transparency, protecting the integrity of the electoral process, and defending against disinformation by identifying, targeting, and obtaining domains that are used for misinformation campaigns.

The foundation of any democracy contains the freedoms of speech, protest, and right to vote. Governments around the world have plans to address the fake news issue, but to varying degrees. One question comes to mind: does a law to discourage or halt fake news truly promote democracy?

This will vary on a case by case basis, but authoritarian countries (such as China and Russia) jail dissidents whom they claim are spreading false information online. This is often not the case and is only being used as justification to jail political critics and journalists. The Chinese model of media censorship limits the freedoms of speech in the public sphere on social media.

Free Speech vs. Fake News

Western nations and institutions, such as the European Union, United Kingdom, and the United States have enacted laws and regulations. They are attempting to remove social media posts and accounts of individuals who disseminate fake news and conspiracies.

Many groups interpret this as an attempt to suppress free speech. The fine line is being drawn on a country-by-country basis. In Europe, large social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter may face fines and tougher regulations on these social media giants. This is if they disregard or fail to remove posts and accounts that are deemed “harmful and/or illegal”.

The European Union voted in favor of Articles 11 and 13. To sum up the articles, they will call for companies like Google “to pay media companies a so-called “link tax” when sharing their content.” Article 13 wants social media platforms to monitor content uploaded to posts “ahead of their publication by using automated software that would detect and filter out intellectual property violations” (Quartz).

What the People Can Do to Help

The fine line between regulating fake news while allowing the freedom of speech is challenging. This challenge is something governments worldwide will have to figure out and come to terms with soon enough.

Cybersecurity threats are not always the conventional, short-term gains of the hacking of voter systems, banks, or government entities, but are now long-term plays in undermining the democracy and political polarization of countries.

Unfortunately, government regulations can only do so much in stopping the spread of fake news. It’s up to the public to decide what is real and what isn’t, and many people will already have their minds made up.