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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.

carbon, digital
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)

Next Story

Pakistan’s Fake Social Media Accounts Spreading Lies on Kashmir

Pakistan has adopted the strategy of giving a religious colour to its propaganda campaign, posing a fake threat from India, while reminding India of the consequences of the rise of extremist forces

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fake, media, behaviour, artificial intelligence
Social Media Icons. VOA

Fake social media accounts, often emanating from Pakistan, continue to paint a grim picture of Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370.

From passing off a High Court-ordered drive to clear illegal encroachments on forest land in Himachal Pradesh as “barbarism” in the Kashmir valley to terming mobile phone restrictions in the region as “siege in Kashmir”, a false narrative propagated by Pakistanis’ propaganda machinery finds many takers on social media, partly due to relentless promotion by fake accounts.

“Pakistani terror & proxy war paraphernalia burning vehicles, attacking fruit growers & merchants, killing & threatening shopkeepers, enforcing shutdown and calling this SIEGE,” Imtiyaz Hussain, a top IPS officer in Jammu and Kashmir, said in a tweet on Thursday.

“For all those ‘SIEGE’ obsessed reporters. There’s no SIEGE in Kashmir except some restriction on mobile phones which’s being lifted soon. Post 5th August except initially for few days, there hasn’t been any restriction imposed by Govt. Roads & streets are full of people, vehicles,” Hussain said in an earlier tweet.

Fact-checking website BOOM on Wednesday reported that a two-year-old video of clashes between protesters and security personnel in Kashmir is now being shared as the reaction of Kashmiris following the scrapping of Article 370.

Article 370, New, Kashmiris
The end of Article 370 heralds a new beginning for many Kashmiris, despite the doom and gloom in some quarters over its revocation. Pixabay

For more than one month now, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the public relations wing of the Pakistan armed forces, is busy spreading fake news related to Kashmir in a bid to sow seeds of discord among security forces and fuel hatred among citizens in India.

As part of its information warfare, Pakistan has resorted to spreading propaganda, fake news, threatening statements and manipulating the social media.

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Pakistan has adopted the strategy of giving a religious colour to its propaganda campaign, posing a fake threat from India, while reminding India of the consequences of the rise of extremist forces. (IANS)