… hypotheses that bots have destroyed American democracy. That’s a different essay. But I think that the main impact that they have had, like spam, is to destabilize people’s trust in the media ecosystem. Still, we need to contend with the stark reality that they do serve a purpose and some people do w…
A network of 1,000 bots is very large, but it pales in comparison to the nearly 30,000 bots discovered posting duplicate content throughout the comments on Trump’s Facebook page. While this is only around 2% of the accounts that were active between March and August, 2016, and accounted for only 5% of the content, operating a botnet of this size is typical of what analysts call a “state actor” ― a.k.a., a government.
… Twitter data to map the structure of the alternative media ecosystem that drives these narratives. Through content analysis, we found these domains to collectively host many different types of conspiracy theories — from politically-themed narratives about the “New World Order” to anti-vaccine arguments. In this “virtual” world, the Sandy Hook School shootings were staged by crisis actors and the earth is actually flat after all.
We also noted how the structure of the alternative media ecosystem and the content that is hosted and spread there suggest the use of intentional disinformation tactics — meant to create “muddled thinking” and a general mistrust in information.
…and dug DEEP into their content, I realized that there is an indeed an information war being waged. Three years ago, our lab decided these conspiracy theories were too marginal and salacious to be the focus of our research. Almost that it was beneath our dignity to pay attention to and promote this kind of content. What a terrible mistake that was. It seems to me that we were the only ones who made it. It is (past) time we attend to this (as researchers and designers of the systems that conduct this content). I hope it is not too late.
…be clever on Twitter, stop impressing your friends with your nuanced analysis of filibustering, and let’s all speak in one, clear, simple voice. Impeachment is political. Trump has committed impeachable offenses, and the list is growing, to the point where impeachment feels inevitable to many observers. A recen…
…g to seek financial gain. But the battles over ideology and attention are going to be far trickier. What’s at stake isn’t “fake news.” What’s at stake is the increasing capacity of those committed to a form of isolationist and hate-driven tribalism that has been around for a very long time. They have evolved with the information landscape, becoming sophisticated in leveraging whatever tools are available to achieve power, status, and attention. And those seeking a progressive and inclusive agenda, those seeking to combat tribalism to form a more perfect union — they haven’t kept up.
Biased information — misleading in nature, typically used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view — is a much more prevalent problem than fake news. It’s a problem that doesn’t exist only within Facebook but across social networks and other information-rich services (Google, YouTube, etc.).