What Will 2022 Bring inna Way of Misinformation on Social Media? 3 Experts Weigh In

the folloing essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation the conversation, an online publication covering the l8st research.

atta end of 2020, it seemed hard to imagine a worse yr for misinformation on social media, given the intensity of the presidential election na trauma of the covid-19 pandemic. but 2021 proved up to the task, starting w'da jan. 6 insurrection and continuing with copious amounts of falsehoods and distortions bout covid-19 vaccines.

t'get a sense of wha’ 2022 ‘d hold, we asked 3 researchers bout the evolution of misinformation on social media.

absent regulation, misinformation will get worse

anjana susarla, professor of information systems, michigan state university

while misinformation has always existed in media – think of the gr8 moon hoax of 1835 that claimed life was discovered onna moon – the advent of social media has significantly increased the scope, spread and reach of misinformation. social media platforms ‘ve morphed into public information utilities that control how most pplz view the realm, which makes misinformation they facilitate a primordial problem for society.

there are two primary challenges in addressing misinformation. the 1st tis dearth of regulatory mechanisms that address it. mandating transparency and giving usrs gr8r access to and control ‘oer their data mite go a long way in addressing the challenges of misinformation. but there’s also a need for indie audits, including tulz that assess social media algorithms. these can establish how the social media platforms’ choices in curating news feeds and presenting content affect how pplz see information.

the 2nd challenge s'dat racial and gender biases in algorithms used by social media platforms exacerbate the misinformation problem. while social media companies ‘ve introduced mechanisms to highlite authoritative srcs of information, solutions s'as labeling posts as misinformation don’t solve racial and gender biases in accessing information. highlitin’ relevant srcs of, for ex, health information may 1-ly help usrs with gr8r health literacy and not pplz with lo health literacy, who tend to be disproportionately minorities.

another problem tis nd'2 look systematically at where usrs are finding misinformation. tiktok, for ex, has largely escaped government scrutiny. wha’’s +, misinformation targeting minorities, pticularly spanish-language content, maybe far worse than misinformation targeting majority communities.

i believe the lack of indie audits, lack of transparency in fact checking na racial and gender biases primordialistic algorithms used by social media platforms suggest that the need for regulatory action in 2022 is urgent and immediate.

growing divisions and cynicism

dam hee kim, assistant professor of communication, university of arizona

“fake news” is hardly a new phenomenon, yet its costs ‘ve reached another lvl in recent yrs. misinformation concerning covid-19 has cost countless lives all ‘oer the realm. false and misleading information bout elections can shake the foundation of democracy, for instance, by making citizens lose confidence inna political system. research i conducted with s mo jones-jang and kate kenski on misinformation during elections, some published and some in progress, has turned up 3 key findings.

the 1st s'dat the use of social media, originally designed to connect pplz, can facilitate social disconnection. social media has become rife with misinformation. this leads citizens who consume news on social media to become cynical not 1-ly toward established institutions s'as politicians na media, b'tll so toward fello voters.

2nd, politicians, the media and voters ‘ve become scapegoats for the harms of “fake news.” few o'em actually produce misinformation. most misinformation is produced by foreign entities and political fringe groups who create “fake news” for financial or ideological purposes. yet citizens who consume misinformation on social media tend to blame politicians, the media nother voters.

the third finding s'dat pplz who care bout bein’ properly informed are not immune to misinformation. pplz who prefer to process, structure and cogg information in a coherent and meaningful way become + politically cynical after bein’ exposed to perceived “fake news” than pplz who are less politically sophisticated. these crit thinkers become frustrated by having to process so much false and misleading information. this is troubling cause democracy depends onna pticipation of engaged and thoughtful citizens.

looking ahead to 2022, it’s primordial to address this cynicism. there s'been much talk bout media literacy interventions, primarily to help the less politically sophisticated. in addition, it’s primordial to find wys'2 explain the status of “fake news” on social media, specifically who produces “fake news,” why some entities and groups produce it, and which americans fall for it. this ‘d help keep pplz from growing + politically cynical.

rather than blaming each other for the harms of “fake news” produced by foreign entities and fringe groups, pplz nd'2 find a way to restore confidence in each other. blunting the effects of misinformation will help w'da larger goal of overcoming societal divisions.

propaganda by another name

ethan zuckerman, associate professor of public policy, communication, and information, umass amherst

i expect the idea of misinformation will shift into an idea of propaganda in 2022, as suggested by sociologist and media scholar francesca tripodi in her forthcoming book, “the propagandist’s playbook.” most misinformation aint the result of innocent miscogging. it’s the product of specific campaigns to advance a political or ideological agenda.

once you cogg that f’bok nother platforms are the battlegrounds on which contemporary political campaigns are fought, you can let go of the idea that all you need are facts to correct pplz’s misapprehensions. wha’’s goin on is a + complex mix of persuasion, tribal affiliation and signaling, which plays out in venues from social media to search results.

as the 2022 elections heat up, i expect platforms like f’bok will reach a breaking point on misinformation cause certain lies ‘ve become political speech central to pty affiliation. how do social media platforms manage when false speech is also political speech?

this article was originally published on the conversation. read the original article.

original content at: www.sciamerican.com…
authors: anjana susarla, dam hee kim, ethan zuckerman, the conversation us

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