This paper seeks to define and analyze the difference between public policy and propaganda, the mechanisms of disseminating both disinformation and misinformation and the possible consequences, taking into account both technological and psychological factors. As regards the technological factors, particular attention is given to “deep fakes” that allow the creation of audio and video of real people saying and doing things they have never said or done, sheer invention. Machine learning techniques are accelerating technology’s sophistication, making deep fakes increasingly more realistic and resistant to detection. Psychological factors include the tendency of average people to fell prey to conspiracy theories and the confusion created by the plethora of “news sources” which are both easily available and unregulated.
Strategies and tactics of digital-era propaganda will be examined based on contemporary case studies (including Russian campaigns to damage EU-Ukraine relations, and President Trump’s accusations against his adversaries for fake news). Recommendations will be given as how to counter the threat to the best possible extent. Moreover, focus is also placed on the danger of using the suppression of propaganda as a pretext to suppress media pluralism and control dissident voices that criticize the established status quo, especially in non-liberal democracies (like Russia) or in autocratic regimes (like China).