“What’s a few tweets and FaceBook posts that spread fake news?”, Donie rhetorically posits to us as he opened up the discussion with Kevin Murphy on Thursday at 1 p.m. New York time. So many of our political views are shaped by social media, so it can be highly influential to present information a certain way these platforms.
Donie says that conspiracy theorists used to be on the fringes and have now moved into mainstream because the YouTube and FaceBook algorithms incentives their rise using their clicks and likes. It can be hard to debunk vast and complex, but most importantly non-sensical, conspiracy theories. However, if you can find a concrete kernel that is false and particularly why it’s false, that’s the way forward. All the same, it can be a difficult choice to determine what to work on because sometimes you can give credence to nonsense by bringing to a national screen.
He says that America is among the most polarised country in the western world when it comes to politics. The media in the US is hyperpolarised. Social media has played a huge role in that. Many of the echo chambers are particular to America. In the age of Brexit, there is more of this in the UK.
It’s a lot more difficult for people to figure out what the facts really are. Sometimes there is a tiny shred of truth in something that’s being pushed. It’s easy for people to infer that if 5% is true, then the rest of it must be so too. Where this is distrust on the part of people and they have been mistreated by a system, when an authoritative source gives information from there, they’re unlikely to be given much credence. If you don’t trust information, then misinformation can fill the gap. There isn’t enough being done about misinformation and many people don’t know how to overcome this. There is more information out there than ever and fewer resources for journalists to search through it.
Donie feels that in terms of Covid 19, if there is a situation where a decent part of the population continually sees scaremongering on social media about a vaccine when it comes out, then that would pose a problem.
It’s important to hold technology companies to account and if people in the highest office of the land are challenging that objectivity, then that poses new issues in media, politics, companies, freedom of speech and the sway that any one of those have on the perspective of a nation. Should Jack Dorsey have the power to take down a tweet from the President of the United States? Further, should he have the power to choose which ones?
Donie shared a story with us where he volunteered to be hacked just to see what they could do. Rachel from San Francisco was able to go through Donie’s social media to see what products he buys. She then used a voice changer which you can buy “for nothing” and this led her to be able to get Donie’s home address in New York, steal his airline and hotel points, change his seat on a plane and if she had kept going, he thinks she could get into his bank account. Often the answers to security questions asked can be gleaned off social media. If you want to improve the robustness of your systems, reach out to a hacker!
While Donie refused to be drawn on the final outcome of the election this year he said that 40 million Americans are out of work since March and one would imagine that a president would find it difficult to get re-elected, however, you couldn’t possibly write him off. It’s a long time to November. Zuckerburg laughed off the idea that misinformation had an impact on the US election right afterwards. Under law, social media platforms can’t be responsible for what’s being put on there. However, Donie muses that If that is ever changed, then a lot more people would need to be hired to moderate what people say.