I found this article that goes back to our class discussion on how social media will affect this year’s upcoming election. One very important detail that we didn’t touch on was the way voting will be conducted this year. As a result of the pandemic, mail in voting is going to surge. And another result of the pandemic is that more people are spending time online. Where voters are getting their information and what information they are taking in is crucial to them making the best decision – whatever that may be. Another point that was discussed in my group yesterday was that the news you receive via social media is very skewed to who you are following, so in addition to fact checking, it is important to get an unbiased view on matters.
As for how social media’s role differs from 2016, like we talked about in class, the article says, “People are more online right now than at any point in human history, and experts say the Internet has gotten only more flooded since 2016 with bad information”(NPR). Going back to our quality vs quantity discussion, the article notes NewsGuard as a browser extension that helps users recognize the quality of what they’re reading online. In April, they flagged 36 sites that were spreading misinformation related to the coronavirus, and a month later that number went up to 200. As you can imagine, that number is much greater now and will continue to increase leading up to the election. A study from Carnegie Mellon also found that almost half of the Twitter accounts spreading misinformation about the virus were bots.
An interesting point made in class was that Facebook almost serves as a sounding board to get arise out of followers in a polarizing way. This article confirms that by saying Facebook confirmed their algorithms exploit the human brain’s attractiveness to divisiveness according to a study in 2018. As damage control from the last election, there were new policies rolled out to warn people before they clicked on conspiracies. Twitter and Facebook also did their part in deleting fake accounts. More recently, Twitter has added a “fact check” link feature which was added to one of Trump’s tweets about mail in voting for the first time. I expect that we will see a lot more damage control this time around. Advertising will see a change as well since many companies including Facebook are set to remove all election related ads a week before election day.
In addition, post election- I’d like to talk about the role that social media has played in this record breaking turnout. Going back to the Twitter “fact check” feature in the last paragraph, this was proven useful again as President Trump tweeted, insinuating he had won the election. “Twitter and Facebook have both slapped a misinformation label on some content from Trump, most notably his assertions linking voting by mail to fraud. On Monday, Twitter flagged Trump’s tweet proclaiming “I won the Election!” with this note: “Official sources called this election differently”(PBS). I think this feature on Twitter is/was needed a long time ago. This prevents misinformation from spreading. Especially when someone has a large following and is also a verified user, this may be enough for some people to just automatically assume they are speaking the truth. Facebook and Twitter have landed in hot water since the election results were posted – with Republicans accusing them that they unfairly censored right-wing posts and accusations from Democrats that they didn’t do enough to block misinformation. Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, testified that Twitter flagged some 300,000 tweets between Oct. 27 and Nov. 11 for content that was disputed and potentially misleading, representing 0.2% of all U.S. election-related tweets sent during the period (PBS). Going back to the first part of this post, although these companies already have their own enforcements to avoid misinformation, it may be helpful to have a browser like NewsGuard to weed out the “fake news.” It is also partly on the reader to take everything they read with a grain of salt and make these distinctions themselves. It’s hard to say if social media is helpful or destructive when it comes to election time, but I believe that in this particular case it has been helpful. “A record-breaking 160 million Americans voted in the 2020 presidential election, despite the Covid-19 pandemic’s continued spread across the country” (Vox). As previously mentioned, more people have been spending time online during the pandemic due to being restricted of other activities. I think the fact that many people are more active on social media/online platforms now may have something to do with this. Extra time spent online may have made people more attuned to what is going on where they may not have had the time to really read certain sources previously to gain information about the candidates.
“The great thing about the Internet is everyone can be a publisher. The really bad thing about the Internet is everyone can be a publisher.” -Steven Brill, CEO of NewsGuard
With all of these things in play, do you think this is enough? What more could be done to prevent misinformation on social media?
Gordon, Marcy. “WATCH LIVE: Facebook, Twitter CEOs Testify on Social Media’s Role in 2020 Election.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 16 Nov. 2020, www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/watch-live-facebook-twitter-ceos-testify-on-social-medias-role-in-2020-election. Web. 17 Nov. 2020.
Lapinski, Valerie. “The US Broke Voting Records in a Pandemic.” Vox, Vox, 7 Nov. 2020, www.vox.com/2020/11/7/21554243/us-voting-records-pandemic-election-covid19. Web. 17 Nov. 2020.
Parks, Miles. “Social Media Usage Is At An All-Time High. That Could Mean A Nightmare For Democracy.” NPR, NPR, 27 May 2020, www.npr.org/2020/05/27/860369744/social-media-usage-is-at-an-all-time-high-that-could-mean-a-nightmare-for-democr. Web. 8 Oct. 2020.
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