Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bots, Politics and Fake News

From radio to TV to the internet, every new medium has disrupted the political space. Each has served as a new tool to expand the audience and sharpen the dialogue. With social media, however, we find ourselves in unique territory.


The public has to wake up to the very real reality that fake news, junk news and automated tweets are almost certainly muddling political discourse and making different factions more and more polarised. Rhetoric and sloganeering are giving way to digital subterfuge and guerilla assaults on the public psyche.

As one detailed report put it, media manipulators trade their stories by “using the power of networked collaboration and the reach of influencers”. Even “when the misinformation is debunked, it continues to shape people’s attitudes”. Such overt mind manipulation can “ruin democracy”, warned the report.

Speaking of ruining democracy, algorithms are also opening the door to another kind of Facebook manipulation. During the UK election, there were reports of “paid-for attack advertising” targeting specific voters in specific constituencies. The Conservatives have been particularly identified with this so-called “dark advertising”. It threatens to break fundamental rules about campaign transparency and voter targeting. It also undermines the UK’s longstanding ban on political parties buying TV and radio space.

Via The RSA. Read the whole report here.

Further reading:

The War on Truth, also from The RSA
Where trust has evaporated, conspiracy theories thrive, and the authority of the media wilts; it is the primacy of emotions and beliefs that shape the public. This makes for a terrifying time in which democracy and pluralism are all at threat.
Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds - The New Yorker
As everyone who’s followed the research—or even occasionally picked up a copy of Psychology Today—knows, any graduate student with a clipboard can demonstrate that reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational.
Consider what’s become known as “confirmation bias,” the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them. Of the many forms of faulty thinking that have been identified, confirmation bias is among the best catalogued; it’s the subject of entire textbooks’ worth of experiments.
Why Do People Believe Fake News? - Huffpost
 ... challenging someone’s political [or any] beliefs [with counter evidence] activates the same areas of the brain involved in personal identity and emotional response to threat.

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