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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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Instagram Helps Women to Overcome Miscarriage Distress: Study

The extent to which this loss affects women and their families, and the longevity of their grief is a blind spot for clinicians

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As far as we know, this is the first study to look at the intersection of Instagram and miscarriage. Pixabay

Despite its common occurrence, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding miscarriage and many women find that their emotional and psychological needs are unmet as they go through a devastating grieving process. But for some, Instagram has emerged as a tool to cope with such distress, a study says.

The study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that the content posted by Instagram users included rich descriptions of the medical and physical experiences of miscarriage, and the emotional spectrum of having a miscarriage and coping with those emotions, the social aspect, and family identity.

“I find it endlessly fascinating that women are opening up to essentially strangers about things that they hadn’t even told their partners or families,” says Dr. Riley. “But this is how powerful this community is,” said Amy Henderson Riley, Assistant Professor at the Jefferson College of Population Health, Thomas Jefferson University, US.

The findings are based on a qualitative research study on 200 posts of text and pictures shared by Instagram users.

“What surprised me the most was how many women and their partners identified as parents after their miscarriage and how the miscarriage lasted into their family identity after a successful pregnancy,” said Rebecca Mercier, Assistant Professor at Thomas Jefferson University.

“The extent to which this loss affects women and their families, and the longevity of their grief is a blind spot for clinicians,” Mercier said.

These personal accounts also provided insight into patients’ perspectives of typically defined experiences.

For example, in the clinic, the typical definition of recurrent pregnancy loss is after three pregnancies. However, the researchers found that many patients who had had two or more miscarriages identified with having recurrent pregnancy loss.

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Despite its common occurrence, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding miscarriage and many women find that their emotional and psychological needs are unmet as they go through a devastating grieving process. But for some, Instagram has emerged as a tool to cope with such distress, a study says. Pixabay

“I’m hoping that this study will encourage clinicians to point patients to social media as a potential coping tool, as well as to approach this subject with bereaved and expecting parents with more respect and empathy,” Mercier said.

Social media is becoming a common avenue for patient testimonials. For example, the short video-sharing platform TikTok has recently become a home for some users to make videos sharing their personal health struggles.

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“As far as we know, this is the first study to look at the intersection of Instagram and miscarriage,” Riley said.

“But this is a drop in the bucket. Social media platforms are evolving rapidly and a theoretically grounded research must follow,” she added. (IANS)