Miss Info Spreader

The past decade's rise of social media brought with it a firehose of information. Is a website down? Check Twitter. What's on the menu at my local burger restaurant? Check their Facebook page. What we failed to recognize early on was the lack of vetting of what was being loaded into that firehose. Sprinkled in were tidbits of fringe views, conspiracy theories, and footholds into people's lives. Plant a seed of doubt and you can cultivate a person's personality into one that aligns with your point of view.

In the last few years between a tumultuous American election cycle, a global pandemic, and the mass adoption of fringe views, Twitter and Facebook Meta have tried to crack down on the spread of these blatantly-false facts. But it's on us to not participate. H. Colleen Sinclair Ph.D. has a breakdown of how we can stop being active participants in spreading misinformation.

The best inoculation against what the World Health Organization is calling the “infodemic” is to understand the tricks that agents of disinformation are using to try to manipulate you.

One strategy is called “prebunking” — a type of debunking that happens before you hear myths and lies. Research has shown that familiarizing yourself with the tricks of the disinformation trade can help you recognize false stories when you encounter them, making you less susceptible to those tricks.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed an online game called “Bad News,” which their studies have shown can improve players’ identification of falsehoods.

In addition to the game, you can also learn more about how internet and social media platforms work, so you better understand the tools available to people seeking to manipulate you. You can also learn more about scientific research and standards of evidence, which can help you be less susceptible to lies and misleading statements about health-related and scientific topics.

H. Colleen Sinclair writing at TED

Dr. Sinclair's methods are broken down into seven tips we can all use. These tools help us recognize our own biases along with considering the source of materials we see online. I think it's also key, as we finally learned in last year's Meta whistleblower scandal, to acknowledge that the news feeds we are fed are designed to keep us engaged. To do that, they will be manipulative. Social media is not about seeking the truth like journalism strives to do. Social media is designed to keep us scrolling so we see more ads and make them more money.

By reflecting on who we are, evaluating what we read, and pausing before sharing, we can work to break a cycle of "read, outrage, share, repeat".

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