Misinformation & Disinformation in the Financial Market: Back to the Future

The past two decades of global digitalization have ushered in numerous benefits and fresh opportunities for humanity. However, at times, we tend to overlook or deliberately ignore the drawbacks of this progress. Yet, we have been warned. Over 30 years ago, in his book Perfect Crime, the renowned French sociologist Jean Baudrillard delineated the mechanism by which reality fades away, encapsulated and preserved within a symbol.

Consider Google, for instance, which has transformed into a symbol of humanity’s collective knowledge. The days of traditional libraries and paperbacks are long gone. Today, internet users have vested Google with an astonishing level of trust, especially when it comes to the search engine’s first-page results, forgetting that Google is simply a search engine. As the legendary Kevin Mitnick once referred to the internet joke in his book The Art of Invisibility, “The Best Place to Hide a Dead Body is Page Two of Google”. We knew it all and it happened to us anyway, which is why we wrote “back to the future” as the title of the article.

In a recent WMN piece, our colleagues conducted a fact-check of an article aimed at discrediting the Maltese financial institution Papaya Ltd. Disinformation was used as the main tool in this instance. The information attack was orchestrated so amateurishly and riddled with errors that it prompted us to initiate a discussion on the issue of disinformation and misinformation in the financial market. 

Moreover, the financial sector has historically been highly susceptible to various forms of informational manipulation. We anticipate that many of our colleagues will engage in this discussion, as it appears that disinformation and misinformation are increasingly being employed as inexpensive and widespread tools in the market. This raises concerns about the potential for widespread chaos and significant economic ramifications.

In 2023, an engaging scientific paper titled “Exploring Online Financial Misinformation and Its Consequences: A Computational Perspective” was published. In their concluding remarks, the authors state: “By proactively identifying and addressing misinformation, stakeholders can protect investors, promote market transparency, and preserve financial stability. The detrimental effects of such misinformation are evident, resulting in market volatility, investor losses, and a decline in trust towards financial institutions”. In other words, the authors explicitly state that despite the presence of laws, special services, institutes and regulatory bodies within states and governments, they demonstrate a complete inability to counter disinformation and misinformation. The responsibility for detecting and addressing disinformation and misinformation rests solely on the shoulders of businesses and individuals.

From this review, it becomes evident that the only effective method to tackle disinformation and misinformation is through the concept of “self-protection” rather than reliance on government.

While implementing this concept may appear ambitious, as it demands resources, people, methodologies, funding, and much more, the collective pooling of efforts and the establishment of specialized structures for combating disinformation and misinformation in every sector of the economy could lead to significant improvements in the near future. Certainly, this will require the collaboration of journalists, detectives, criminologists, sociologists, human rights advocates, lawyers, and specialized market experts. While it represents a significant undertaking, it can be viewed as a blueprint for another startup, a model that businessmen are adept at working with and organizing.

Revisiting the Papaya Ltd. case, our journalists embarked on uncovering the underlying reasons behind the officials’ inspection requests across Germany, Latvia, and Malta. This endeavor consumed a two weeks of diligent investigation, during which we obtained the identical insider information from two credible sources within the Maltese law enforcement sector. The inspection requests were initiated due to the operations of a company associated with the JuicyFields pyramid scheme.

The company sought to open an account with Papaya Ltd. but was unsuccessful in meeting the KYC and AML requirements. According to our sources, it was the activities of the company associated with the JuicyFields pyramid scheme that caught the attention of law enforcement agencies. Papaya Ltd. itself faces no accusations; moreover, Papaya representatives are actively involved in anti-money laundering efforts. 

However, it’s quite puzzling that not a single journalist from Germany, Malta, Latvia, or any other EU country bothered to investigate this matter. What’s more concerning is that it seems nobody even attempted to ascertain the true reason behind the officials’ activities.  It appears we’ve become so entrenched in our hyperreality, as Jean Baudrillard eloquently noted, that for many of us, no Morpheus will come to our aid, given the omnipresence of Google and its first search results.