The creation and spread of misinformation and disinformation has been escalating since the adoption of social media into our everyday lives.
Misinformation and disinformation can take on many forms and is starting to carry far greater consequences than previously imagined.
An important distinction made by Rachel Martin was the difference between misinformation and disinformation. Misinformation is false information, without necessarily the intention of being false. Disinformation is false information designed specifically to change people’s perception on a topic.
Regardless of its status or intention, both misinformation and disinformation are having similar effects in the way they are influencing the minds and decisions of consumers.
Social Media’s Role
In the npr.org story, it states that YouTube is “the world’s biggest proliferator of misinformation”. However, the mobilization of this content isn’t all on YouTube. The creation of misinformation may commonly start there, but the real spread comes from the constant sharing through other social media platforms.
Social media has become a hub for the spread of information, whether true, or false. But not only that, it has become a place where hate and cruelty fester surrounding debates on the legitimacy of information shared. It is becoming a much bigger issue than just being misinformed.
The misinformation and disinformation crisis has created rifts amongst family members, friends and society in general. As has been highlighted in Netflix’s popular documentary The Social Dilemma, these societal rifts have grown due to social networks algorithms. These algorithms feed consumers stronger left or right rhetoric depending on their reading history, driving people even further left or right of any spectrum or topic.
YouTube has stated their algorithms have changed in an effort to ensure more authoritative content surfaces on their platform, but the spread of false information seems to be creating more conflict surrounding the sharing of ideas and division amongst people than ever before.
YouTube and Social Media sites give the public an ability to create and spread false information, without a true way to police the accuracy. Whether it be the spreading of conspiracy theories that cause tension and divide amongst people, or the publishing of false, harmful content about a person or business, misinformation and disinformation can have drastic consequences on people’s lives.
Effects on People and Business
The influential nature of misinformation circulating the internet is one of the major issues we continue to face as a society. But for businesses and individuals, disinformation, with the goal of spreading intentionally false narratives is becoming just as common.
Targeted attacks such as, fake business reviews, reputation damaging forums and malicious social media posts have unfortunately become commonplace in today’s digital age and fall right under the umbrella of disinformation. This type of false information explicitly impacts the livelihood of businesses and individuals, and like with misinformation, Google and social media platforms have yet to find a way to properly filter it.
The freedom of expression should never be taken away from the public, however, given the platform Search Engines and Social Media giants have created for misinformation and disinformation to spread, it’s important for people to not immediately believe everything they watch or read.
If Google and the social networks won’t do it, it’s imperative for people to weed out false information themselves. Diligent fact checking, looking at multiple sources and unearthing a posters agenda are all steps to take to ensure information being consumed is accurate and trustworthy.