First, it is woefully inadequate to describe the complex phenomena of information pollution.

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Since the results of the ‘Brexit’ vote in the UK, Donald Trump’s victory in the US and Kenya’s recent decision to nullify its national election result, there has been much discussion of how information disorder is influencing democracies.

More concerning, however, are the long-term implications of dis-information campaigns designed specifically to sow mistrust and confusion and to sharpen existing socio-cultural divisions using nationalistic, ethnic, racial and religious tensions.

This report is an attempt to comprehensively examine information disorder and its related challenges, such as filter bubbles and echo chambers.

While the historical impact of rumours and fabricated content have been well documented, we argue that contemporary social technology means that we are witnessing something new: information pollution at a global scale; a complex web of motivations for creating, disseminating and consuming these ‘polluted’ messages; a myriad of content types and techniques for amplifying content; innumerable platforms hosting and reproducing this content; and breakneck speeds of communication between trusted peers.

The direct and indirect impacts of information pollution are difficult to quantify.

We’re only at the earliest of stages of understanding their implications.Hossein Derakhshan is an Iranian-Canadian writer and researcher.The pioneer of blogging in Iran in the early 2000s, he later spent six years in prison there over his writings and web activities.This report was published by the Council of Europe, with support from the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and First Draft.Reproduced with permission of the Council of Europe. No part of this publication may be translated, reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing from the Directorate of Communications (F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex or [email protected]).Report and photos © Council of Europe, October, 2017.