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Disinformation: a guide to understanding and mitigating the risks to your business

25 July 2023

The article at a glance

Matt Gorham, Managing Director at the Cyber and Privacy Innovation Institute at PwC US, explains how to do a disinformation threat assessment and figure out how it might affect your business.

Alan Jagolinzer
Professor Alan Jagolinzer

In today’s world, where everything is connected and information moves quickly and freely, the rise of false information has become a pressing problem for companies and society as a whole. It is very important to be able to tell the difference between facts and falsehoods, especially since spreading false information can have serious effects on groups and organisations.   

By equipping yourself with the knowledge and strategies to fight disinformation, you can protect your organisation’s reputation, safeguard your stakeholders, and help support broader efforts in countering this pervasive issue. 

But how should this work be done?  

Matt Gorham, Managing Director at the Cyber and Privacy Innovation Institute at PwC US, explained how to do a disinformation threat assessment and figure out how it might affect your business during an interview with Professor Alan Jagolinzer, Professor of Financial Accounting at Cambridge Judge Business School.

Understand the vulnerability to false and fraudulent information in your organisation

1. Recognise the danger

Recognise the danger: even though it hasn’t happened yet to a great extent, disinformation is a threat to businesses.  

2. Assess risks specific to your business

Assess the risks that are specific to your business. There aren’t any clear trends yet, but industries that focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues may become more targeted. 

3. Consider threat players

Think about possible threat players, such as activists, nation-states, or other companies, and try to figure out their goals and motivations. 

4. Plan and practise

Do scenario planning exercises to get ready for disinformation events, even if you don’t know what they will be about. 

5. Think about the reputation of individuals

Companies should also think about the reputational risks that come with high-profile people working for them, like famous CEOs or executives who are close to controversial groups or causes. 

Put a plan together

1.Think about liability of disseminators

In the context of disinformation, we need to think and talk about the liability coverage and legal liability of disseminators like social media platforms. 

2. Consider specialists to look into disinformation

Using specialised companies to look into cases of disinformation is possible, but the cost and expected benefit should be carefully thought through. 

3. Hold an event

Consider organising a disinformation summit or similar events to raise awareness among CEOs and board members about the importance of addressing disinformation at a macro level.

4. Be prepared to deal with fraudulent information

Companies should be prepared to deal with fraudulent information that can impact their stock prices.

5. Track and plan for possible problems

Keep track of possible problems that could come up because of false information and make plans for how to deal with them.

6. Make a recovery plan

Get ready for possible disinformation incidents by making a plan to lessen their effects and fix any damage to your brand.

7. Consider your time and skills

Consider whether you have the internal expertise and bandwidth to address disinformation risks in-house. If you need to, you might want to bring in outside consulting services like PwC.

Best practices for your everyday work

1. Respond with data

Respond to disinformation with data-driven narratives.

2. Social media monitoring

Constantly monitor social media to find out what people are saying about your business and brand.

3. Learn terms of service

Learn the terms of service for the social media sites where you share information to make sure you are following the rules and can remove or stop spreading disinformation.  

4. Strengthen brand presence

Make it a priority to build a strong brand and live by your company’s values to in order to establish a positive reputation and protect yourself from false information.

5. Increase awareness

Facilitate talks at the macro level to make executives and boards more aware.

Addressing the issue of disinformation requires macro-level discussions and concerted lobbying efforts to bring about changes in laws and policies. Increasing awareness among executives and board members is paramount to building resilience against disinformation and ensuring the long-term sustainability of businesses in the face of this evolving threat.

Matt Gorham, PwC

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