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Briefing paper

Addressing Australia's vulnerability to weaponised narratives

Internet National security Intelligence services Digital media Australia

Key points:

  • Information overload has permanently changed the news environment for the public, challenging democracies as a result.
  • The human need to find patterns of meaning in events, combined with increasing information availability, exposes Australians to the risk of accepting false or damaging stories.
  • Nation-states can weaponise these narratives to further increase their spread, destructiveness, and focus toward an intended population, especially online.
  • As seen in the US and UK, the use of these narratives can disrupt and degrade the normal functioning of democracy.

Policy recommendations:

  • In a time of endless globalised information flows, Australia must defend its democratic political discussion.
  • The Parliamentary Library should establish a dedicated team, provided with appropriate training, to track and highlight weaponised narratives and misinformation occurring in Australia’s political debate.
  • Non-partisan lessons on the role, function and history of government should be promoted to the public and reintegrated into curricula for schools to help prevent future generations from falling prey to weaponised narratives.
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