Woolwich & Wellesley Township's Local Community Newspaper | Elmira, Ontario, Canada
Support
Follow
Get notified of breaking news and more in the community.

Sign up for The Weekly. A Round up of the most important stories of the week, Breaking News and additional exclusive content just for subscribers.

Brace yourselves for more disinformation courtesy of Facebook social media

Already a dubious phenomenon, the ironically named social media sites – led by the likes of Facebook, Twitter and a thousand variants of Instagram and Pinterest – had descended into little more than partisan flame wars, blatant marketing and outright propaganda before the rise of Trump. They’ve only got worse since then.a

Coupled with the undermining of privacy – embraced by governments not the least bit eager to protect their citizens – the sorry state of affairs should leave no one upset if they all suddenly went away tomorrow. Such would be a reason to rejoice, in fact.

That’s not going to happen, unfortunately, and we’ll be hearing increasingly more about lies, propaganda and disinformation as the U.S. election grows nearer – Russian and Chinese trolls are already out in full force, with internal hate groups adding to a situation that would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous. There is plenty to worry about when it comes to Facebook, in particular.

“Facebook has been incredibly lucrative for its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who ranks among the wealthiest men in the world. But it’s been a disaster for the world itself, a powerful vector for paranoia, propaganda and conspiracy-theorizing as well as authoritarian crackdowns and vicious attacks on the free press. Wherever it goes, chaos and destabilization follow,” writes New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie in a recent piece.

“Here in the United States, Facebook has been the chief vector for QAnon, a byzantine conspiracy theory in which President Trump struggles against a global cabal of Satan-worshipping, life-force sucking pedophiles and their enablers. QAnon supporters believe Trump will eventually go public in an operation that ends with the arrest, internment and execution of that cabal, which conveniently includes many of his Democratic political opponents.”

Although pushed to put some filters on the massive amount of misinformation on the platform, Zuckerberg has done little to stem the tide.

That’s a problem not just for politics – Facebook is being used by authoritarian regimes around the world, not just by Trump and his handlers at the GRU – but for public health officials battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

A study led by researchers at McGill University found that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19. Those that consume more traditional news media have fewer misperceptions and are more likely to follow public health recommendations like social distancing.

“Platforms like Twitter and Facebook are increasingly becoming the primary sources of news and misinformation for Canadians and people around the world. In the context of a crisis like COVID-19, however, there is good reason to be concerned about the role that the consumption of social media is playing in boosting misperceptions,” says co-author Aengus Bridgman, a PhD candidate in political science at the university.

Researchers point to a big difference in the behaviours and attitudes of people who get their news from social media versus news media – even after taking into account demographics as well as factors like scientific literacy and socio-economic differences. Canadians who regularly consume social media are less likely to observe social distancing and to perceive COVID-19 as a threat, while the opposite is true for people that get their information from news media.

“There is growing evidence that misinformation circulating on social media poses public health risks,” says co-author Taylor Owen, an associate professor at the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University. “This makes it even more important for policy makers and social media platforms to flatten the curve of misinformation.”

A Harvard study also looked at the prevalence of false and misleading information related to the coronavirus, finding that what distinguishes the proliferation of bad information surrounding the current crisis is social media.

Prof. Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath found the popularity and ubiquity of the various platforms means the public is no longer merely passively consuming inaccuracies and falsehoods. It’s disseminating and even creating them, which is a “very different” dynamic than what took place during prior pandemics MERS and H1N1.

The sheer volume of COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation online is “crowding out” the accurate public health guidance, “making our work a bit more difficult,” he says

“Misinformation could be an honest mistake or the intentions are not to blatantly mislead people,” like advising others to eat garlic or gargle with salt water as protection against COVID-19, says Viswanath. Disinformation campaigns, usually propagated for political gain by state actors, party operatives, or activists, deliberately spread falsehoods or create fake content, like a video purporting to show the Chinese government executing residents in Wuhan with COVID-19 or “Plandemic,” a film claiming the pandemic is a ruse to coerce mass vaccinations, which most major social media platforms recently banned.

In the end, there’s very little social about such sites, at least in the conventional human sense of the word. The occasional use is one thing – though the sites, along with the ubiquitous Google, are mining data, joined by the likes of the NSA – but there are many people, many of them young, who spend too much time and think too little of the consequences.

More than just too much information, poor judgment and bullying, such time spent online has societal implications. In the case of the Trump, the Russians and electioneering, the dangers go well beyond the vestiges of Cold War sentiments.

Hacking, fake Twitter and Facebook accounts, online bots and a host of other technologies are increasingly part of an arsenal to sway public opinion on a massive scale, all based on psychological research being done by the same people investing in technology companies and the likes of right-wing websites such as Breitbart, with all its now-well-known connections to the Trump campaign.

Such companies are developing increasingly sophisticated tools for gathering up large swathes of online data – the things you post and like on Facebook, for instance – in order to both predict your behaviour and to sway it. This goes beyond targeted advertising, which is itself somewhat problematic, to outright manipulation.

Such invasive prying is the business model, one exploited not only by Facebook but by those intent on misinformation, disinformation and propaganda campaigns.

Already a dubious phenomenon, the ironically named social media sites – led by the likes of Facebook, Twitter and a thousand variants of Instagram and Pinterest – had descended into little more than partisan flame wars, blatant marketing and outright propaganda before the rise of Trump. They’ve only got worse since then.a

Coupled with the undermining of privacy – embraced by governments not the least bit eager to protect their citizens – the sorry state of affairs should leave no one upset if they all suddenly went away tomorrow. Such would be a reason to rejoice, in fact.

That’s not going to happen, unfortunately, and we’ll be hearing increasingly more about lies, propaganda and disinformation as the U.S. election grows nearer – Russian and Chinese trolls are already out in full force, with internal hate groups adding to a situation that would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous. There is plenty to worry about when it comes to Facebook, in particular.

“Facebook has been incredibly lucrative for its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who ranks among the wealthiest men in the world. But it’s been a disaster for the world itself, a powerful vector for paranoia, propaganda and conspiracy-theorizing as well as authoritarian crackdowns and vicious attacks on the free press. Wherever it goes, chaos and destabilization follow,” writes New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie in a recent piece.

“Here in the United States, Facebook has been the chief vector for QAnon, a byzantine conspiracy theory in which President Trump struggles against a global cabal of Satan-worshipping, life-force sucking pedophiles and their enablers. QAnon supporters believe Trump will eventually go public in an operation that ends with the arrest, internment and execution of that cabal, which conveniently includes many of his Democratic political opponents.”

Although pushed to put some filters on the massive amount of misinformation on the platform, Zuckerberg has done little to stem the tide.

That’s a problem not just for politics – Facebook is being used by authoritarian regimes around the world, not just by Trump and his handlers at the GRU – but for public health officials battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

A study led by researchers at McGill University found that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19. Those that consume more traditional news media have fewer misperceptions and are more likely to follow public health recommendations like social distancing.

“Platforms like Twitter and Facebook are increasingly becoming the primary sources of news and misinformation for Canadians and people around the world. In the context of a crisis like COVID-19, however, there is good reason to be concerned about the role that the consumption of social media is playing in boosting misperceptions,” says co-author Aengus Bridgman, a PhD candidate in political science at the university.

Researchers point to a big difference in the behaviours and attitudes of people who get their news from social media versus news media – even after taking into account demographics as well as factors like scientific literacy and socio-economic differences. Canadians who regularly consume social media are less likely to observe social distancing and to perceive COVID-19 as a threat, while the opposite is true for people that get their information from news media.

“There is growing evidence that misinformation circulating on social media poses public health risks,” says co-author Taylor Owen, an associate professor at the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University. “This makes it even more important for policy makers and social media platforms to flatten the curve of misinformation.”

A Harvard study also looked at the prevalence of false and misleading information related to the coronavirus, finding that what distinguishes the proliferation of bad information surrounding the current crisis is social media.

Prof. Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath found the popularity and ubiquity of the various platforms means the public is no longer merely passively consuming inaccuracies and falsehoods. It’s disseminating and even creating them, which is a “very different” dynamic than what took place during prior pandemics MERS and H1N1.

The sheer volume of COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation online is “crowding out” the accurate public health guidance, “making our work a bit more difficult,” he says

“Misinformation could be an honest mistake or the intentions are not to blatantly mislead people,” like advising others to eat garlic or gargle with salt water as protection against COVID-19, says Viswanath. Disinformation campaigns, usually propagated for political gain by state actors, party operatives, or activists, deliberately spread falsehoods or create fake content, like a video purporting to show the Chinese government executing residents in Wuhan with COVID-19 or “Plandemic,” a film claiming the pandemic is a ruse to coerce mass vaccinations, which most major social media platforms recently banned.

In the end, there’s very little social about such sites, at least in the conventional human sense of the word. The occasional use is one thing – though the sites, along with the ubiquitous Google, are mining data, joined by the likes of the NSA – but there are many people, many of them young, who spend too much time and think too little of the consequences.

More than just too much information, poor judgment and bullying, such time spent online has societal implications. In the case of the Trump, the Russians and electioneering, the dangers go well beyond the vestiges of Cold War sentiments.

Hacking, fake Twitter and Facebook accounts, online bots and a host of other technologies are increasingly part of an arsenal to sway public opinion on a massive scale, all based on psychological research being done by the same people investing in technology companies and the likes of right-wing websites such as Breitbart, with all its now-well-known connections to the Trump campaign.

Such companies are developing increasingly sophisticated tools for gathering up large swathes of online data – the things you post and like on Facebook, for instance – in order to both predict your behaviour and to sway it. This goes beyond targeted advertising, which is itself somewhat problematic, to outright manipulation.

Such invasive prying is the business model, one exploited not only by Facebook but by those intent on misinformation, disinformation and propaganda campaigns.

Total
0
Shares
Previous Article

Lefcourtland: September 24, 2020

Next Article

Police support Operation Clear Track during Rail Safety Week

Related Posts
observerxtra.com uses cookies to personalize content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyze our traffic. See Cookie Policy.
Total
0
Share