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Fixing Algorithms Won’t Curb Fake News on Social Media

These three types of disinformation campaigns can be difficult to combat, Nisbet noted

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Just tweaking algorithms and infusing Machine Learning (ML) into them will not protect us from misinformation and fake news on social media platforms, warn researchers.

Technological fixes cannot stop countries from spreading disinformation on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, said Erik Nisbet and Olga Kamenchuk of The Ohio State University.

Policymakers and diplomats need to focus more on the psychology behind why citizens are so vulnerable to disinformation campaigns, they stressed.

“There is so much attention on how social media companies can adjust their algorithms and ban bots to stop the flood of false information,” said Nisbet, Associate Professor of Communication.

“But the human dimension is being left out. Why do people believe these inaccurate stories?”

Governments the world over are fighting the menace of fake news, including political interference from nation-state actors.

In a paper published in The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, Nisbet and Kamenchuk, Research Associate at Ohio State’s Mershon Center for International Security Studies, discussed how to use psychology to battle these disinformation campaigns.

The researchers discussed three types of disinformation campaigns: identity-grievance, information gaslighting and incidental exposure.

Identity-grievance campaigns focus on exploiting real or perceived divisions within a country.

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Multiple apps are displayed on an iPhone in New York. VOA

“The Russian Facebook advertisements during the 2016 election in the US are a perfect example,” Nisbet said. “Many of these ads tried to inflame racial resentment in the country.”

Another disinformation strategy is information gaslighting, in which a country is flooded with false or misleading information through social media, blogs, fake news, online comments and advertising.

A recent Ohio State study showed that social media has only a small influence on how much people believe fake news.

“But the goal of information gaslighting is not so much to persuade the audience as it is to distract and sow uncertainty,” Nisbet added.

A third kind of disinformation campaign simply aims to increase a foreign audience’s everyday, incidental exposure to “fake news.”

“The more people are exposed to some piece of false information, the more familiar it becomes, and the more willing they are to accept it,” Kamenchuk said. “If citizens can’t tell fact from fiction, at some point they give up trying.”

These three types of disinformation campaigns can be difficult to combat, Nisbet noted.

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“It sometimes seems easier to point to the technology and criticize Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, rather than take on the larger issues, like our psychological vulnerabilities or societal polarization,” he said.

But there are ways to use psychology to battle disinformation campaigns.

More generally, diplomats and policymakers must work to address the political and social conditions that allow disinformation to succeed, such as the loss of confidence in democratic institutions, the researchers noted. (IANS)

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Social Media Giant’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg Rejects The Claim ‘Time To Break Up Facebook’

Hughes maintains that lawmakers merely marvel at Facebook's explosive growth and have overlooked their own responsibility to protect the public through more competition.

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In an opinion piece in The New York Times on Thursday, Hughes said the government must hold Mark (Zuckerberg) accountable. VOA

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has rejected the call for breaking up his company, saying the size of Facebook was actually a benefit to its users and for the security of the democratic process.

In an interview with French broadcaster France 2, Zuckerberg dismissed the claim made by his long-time friend and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes that it is time to break up Facebook as Zuckerberg has yielded “unchecked power and influence” far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in the government.

“When I read what he wrote, my main reaction was that what he’s proposing that we do isn’t going to do anything to help solve those issues.

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The Facebook case is being looked at as a measure of the Donald Trump administration’s willingness to regulate US tech companies. VOA

“So I think that if what you care about is democracy and elections, then you want a company like us to be able to invest billions of dollars per year like we are in building up really advanced tools to fight election interference,” Zuckerberg told France 2 while in Paris to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times on Thursday, Hughes said the government must hold Mark (Zuckerberg) accountable.

“Mark’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive,” wrote Hughes, who during his freshman year at Harvard University in 2002 was recruited by Zuckerberg for Facebook.

Zuckerberg said that Facebook’s budget for safety this year is bigger than the whole revenue of the company when it went public earlier this decade.

“A lot of that is because we’ve been able to build a successful business that can now support that. You know, we invest more in safety than anyone in social media,” reported TechCrunch, quoting Zuckerberg.

Hughes wrote that Zuckerberg has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them.

“Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks,” he wrote.

In a separate opinion piece in the NYT on Sunday, Nick Clegg, who is the Vice President for global affairs and communications in Facebook, said that success should not be penalised.

“Facebook shouldn’t be broken up but it does need to be held to account,” Clegg wrote.

“Hughes maintains that lawmakers merely marvel at Facebook’s explosive growth and have overlooked their own responsibility to protect the public through more competition.

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Embroiled in users’ data scandals, Facebook is set to create new privacy positions within the company that would include a committee, and external evaluator and a Chief Compliance Officer. Pixabay

“This argument holds dangerous implications for the American technology sector, the strongest pillar of the economy. And it reveals misunderstandings of Facebook and the central purpose of antitrust law,” Clegg argued.

Embroiled in users’ data scandals, Facebook is set to create new privacy positions within the company that would include a committee, and external evaluator and a Chief Compliance Officer.

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Facebook has already kept aside $3 billion anticipating a record fine coming from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) related to the Cambridge Analytica data scandal which involved 87 million users.

The Facebook case is being looked at as a measure of the Donald Trump administration’s willingness to regulate US tech companies. (IANS)