This second edition of the paper, Democratic defense against disinformation, seeks to capture the rapid development of policy responses to the challenge—especially by governments and social media companies—since initial publication in February 2018. The authors stand by the fundamentals of the earlier analysis and recommendations: that democratic societies can combat and mitigate the challenge of foreign disinformation while working within democratic norms and respect for freedom of expression. The first edition offered a “whole-of-society” vision, with policy suggestions for governments, social media companies, and civil-society groups. Since publication of the first edition, the European Union (EU) and, to a lesser degree, the US government, have taken actions that parallel some of these suggestions. For their part, social media companies have moved from an initial and unsustainable denial of the problem to a stance of willingness to help deal with it, though the depth of this commitment (and the effectiveness of the responses) has yet to be determined.

Collectively, democracies have moved beyond “admiring the problem,” meaning a sort of existential despair in the face of a new threat not easily managed. They have now entered a period of “trial and error,” in which new ideas and solutions for countering, and building resilience against, disinformation are being tested, though unevenly and with setbacks. Meanwhile, the disinformation challenge has evolved and advanced, as state and nonstate actors deploy new technologies, develop new methods of exploitation, and adapt to responses.

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