The Ethics of Countering Digital Propaganda

| September 2018
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Abstract: How can a state react to being a target of disinformation activities by another state without losing the moral ground that it seeks to protect? This essay argues that the concept of moral authority offers an original framework for addressing this dilemma. As a power resource, moral authority enables an actor to have its arguments treated with priority by others and to build support for its actions, but only as long as its behavior does not deviate from certain moral expectations. To develop moral authority, an actor engaged in combating digital propaganda must cultivate six normative attributes: truthfulness and prudence for demonstrating the nature of the harmful effects of disinformation; accountability, integrity, and effectiveness for establishing the normative standing of the actor to engage in counter-intervention; and responsibility for confirming the proportionality of the response.

Keywords: digital propaganda, disinformation, ethics, moral authority, hybrid warfare

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Category: Essay, Issue 32.3, Roundtable: Alternatives to War, The Ethics of War and Peace

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