Recently, a fake video circulated that appeared to show Donald Trump calling for former premier Andrew Fahie to be pardoned after he was found guilty of drug-conspiracy charges this month in Miami.

Anyone who looked closely would have noticed that Mr. Trump’s lips were not in sync with his words and that his gestures didn’t quite fit.

But the video was nevertheless fairly convincing at first glance, and it spread through the territory like wildfire on WhatsApp.

Though we suspect the production was someone’s idea of a practical joke, it brings a lesson that is decidedly not funny: Misinformation, which is inadvertent, and disinformation, which is deliberate, are a growing threat to societies around the world.

As people increasingly share news and other information widely at the click of a button, falsehoods can go viral in minutes, undermining trust in traditional media and creating an atmosphere where truth can seem entirely subjective.

Such chaos gives tyrants, scam artists and other bad actors an opportunity to gain a foothold and promote dangerous agendas. And one need only consider the falsehoods that spread during the Covid-19 pandemic to understand that misinformation and disinformation can kill.

In the future, fake videos and photographs will become more and more realistic.

By the time the Virgin Islands goes to the polls again in about three years’ time, they will likely be practically impossible to spot, and anyone with a smart phone and a few minutes to spare will be able to create one.

In this brave new world, it will be incumbent on everyone in this community to educate themselves about how to analyse digital material with a sceptical eye. Residents should also discipline themselves rigorously to refrain from forwarding possible falsehoods.

Additionally, information literacy should be taught in all VI schools from a young age, and the government should operate ongoing education initiatives for adults as well.

The Trump video over the weekend was not a disaster. Most viewers probably chuckled at it and went about their day.

But fake news can be — and has been — far worse. In the future, it will endanger communities in ways that are not yet fully understood.

The VI must prepare now.