As our society is becoming more technologically advanced, we are moving towards using social media not only as a recreational tool, but also as a social platform. Most people have noticed this change during the height of quarantine, however, this has been slowly happening with the popularization of Instagram and new outlets getting platforms on Twitter.
Most individuals grow up with similar political beliefs of their parents, however, more recently, individuals are beginning to explore beliefs outside of what they have known because they are outside of that echo chamber that their parents and surrounding communities have created.
In terms of creating critical friend groups throughout your life, similar people tend to group together, so those with similar values and beliefs, including political ones. Because those with similar political beliefs always group together, it is easy to fall into an echo chamber. There is a sense of pathos, or credibility, developed within your friend group that when one friend shares a news article or retweets something, that you might read it and decide to repost it because you would consider your “source” to be the friend. This can be dangerous and will lead to a mass spread of misinformation. Misinformation is when false information is being spread as a fact and is not spread with malicious intent. Disinformation is when false information is being spread with malicious intent. Disinformation is also connected to government related false information such as propaganda. The individual or group spreading it is aware of its inaccuracy and is actively seeking to deceive the public or whatever group they are intending to mislead. The scenario above would be an example of misinformation because the original reposter might not have intentionally wanted to spread false information.
A main contributor to false news circulating the internet is because of the algorithm. The algorithm does not take into account whether the content is receiving positive or negative traction, but whether or not people are engaging with the content. There are many instances where someone is posting on Twitter about a current topic and it goes viral. Many people are commenting, retweeting, and quote retweeting, however, they are engaging because what the Original Poster posted was incorrect. There are many individuals who scroll on twitter but do not check the comments. If someone were to see a post that seems urgent regarding a current social issue, they will of course initially react to it being true, but they need to check their sources and read the comments if others are saying that the post is not true.
A current example that we read about in class is Russia and their propaganda. In the New York Times article by Renée DiResta, the author discusses the Russian disinformation operations that occurred in 2016. It is so interesting how far these disinformation operations take us to, because it somewhat was able to interfere with the 2016 US Presidential Elections, which was the election with Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. This operation took many years of data preparations in order to convincingly influence the American public.
Spreading false information is dangerous in any type of group or organization, so imagine mass spread of misinformation across a country. This is very dangerous as democracies are less likely to survive in a “poor informational environment” (Washington Post). If the general public can’t even trust their normal reliable news sources to get information, then they have no credible sources and will have to turn to skepticism.
Disinformation and misinformation campaigns are hard to prevent because of the systems we built social media on as well as Free Speech, however, the general public and new generation are becoming more civically engaged so we are finding ways to find credible sources we can reach to, as well as using our own judgment using our current education in case the credible sources fail us, which could absolutely happen.
In the current climate information rotates at an extremely fast pace due to how connected we are as a community. Regardless, as beneficial this may appear there are significant repercussions being discovered as a community. One clear instance of this is how prevalent fake news has become in our day and age.
It seems simple to ask individuals to “fact check” anything they read but the truth of the matter is the majority do not. Especially considering the fact that many people are working to feed their family or survive the daily struggle. As a result, whatever free time they have (limited amounts) would be best spent with family or anything besides sitting at a desk and fact checking information. This works as a double edge sword as yes the information gained is quick and in larger sums however is not necessary true. This only becomes an issue however if this person would act on said information which in all likelihood is possible.
For example, come voting time many individuals vote based off things they saw in regards to the candidate on their social media feed. Whether thats factual is up for debate however is an accepted part of society. Rather than research the candidate and fundamentally understand his practices it becomes more convenient to look at social media.
Thus, it makes clear sense for fake news to be escalating in the current climate. The issue then falls on us as members of the educated public to carefully regulate what we chose to take as facts.