On the Internet, false stories travel faster than the truth.
That’s the challenge described by the U.S. Navy’s Deputy Chief of Information (CHINFO), Captain Tamara Lawrence, at the November 15 meeting of American Legion Post 20 at the National Press Club.
“It’s about speed,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence told Post 20’s members that in her line of work, she deals with mis- and disinformation every day.
She added that social media and artificial intelligence are powerful tools for enemies of the United States to sow mistrust. Lawrence said communications professionals must counter with facts.
“We have to be truthful, credible, and accurate,” Lawrence said.
She added that bad actors in the information realm don’t have those responsibilities, and they can spread falsehoods quickly.
She cited an example about a false story concerning the location of an American naval vessel. Lawrence said such disinformation can cause international tension and even confusion for the shipping industry.
The Navy responded as quickly as possible with accurate information, Lawrence said. She defined the mission of public affairs officers as leading effective communications in an era of lightning-fast falsehoods that can come from anywhere.
Lawrence added that part of that mission includes encouraging media literacy among the general public.
“Check the sources,” Lawrence said. “Don’t be stuck on one channel.”
She also discussed current recruiting challenges for the military.
“More and more people don’t choose service,” Lawrence said.
Activities such as the Navy’s Fleet Week events help bring the Navy to the public, Lawrence added, which can help encourage young people to consider joining.
She called on veterans groups such as the American Legion to help encourage a culture of service.
Lawrence graduated from Duke University. Her previous assignments include public affairs officer for the Secretary of the Navy, and PAO for Naval Special Warfare.
Post 20 has been affiliated with the National Press Club for more than a century. The post began at the urging of the most celebrated American commander of World War I. General John “Black Jack” Pershing was an associate member of NPC.