Through various discussions on the caucus, we’ve analyzed several adverse effects of social media such as privacy issues and cyberbullying. While looking through some articles over the weekend, I came across an additional phenomenon that is catalyzed through social media: the spread of misinformation. Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy, and their team created a study consisting of 126,000 Twitter chains involving stories spread by three million people more than four and a half million times. They found that false stories spread significantly more than true ones in many different categories like politics, business, and entertainment. In fact, it was found that falsehoods were 70% more likely to be retweeted.
Although many of us view social media platforms as a hub for rumors and stories mainly around entertainment, there is a huge population that depends on social media for credible, relevant news. For instance, as of August 2017, 67% of Americans reported that they get at least some of their news on social media- with two-in-ten doing so often. Additionally, this trend is common among several different age demographics with 55% of Americans that are 50 or older reporting to get news on social media sites as well. Therefore, this deliberate spread of lies can be very dangerous as it sways the public opinion and divides people without real credible information. Security companies have also attributed a strong correlation between false news and hacking. As “the state of Michigan encourages the use of social media, social networking sites and emerging web tools to enhance transparency, communication, customer service, collaboration and information”, it is also prone to situations of fake news.
Questions to think about:
Why do you think social media has increased the spread of false news?
Have you ever experienced this phenomenon?
What ideas do you have to eliminate falsehoods on social media?
Who is responsible for enforcing that posted information is accurate? Social media sites? Government?
What other external factors could be contributing to this?