Misinformation can spread rapidly and on multiple platforms. Bots, trolls, social media and message boards - even word of mouth - can spread misinformation, disinformation and propaganda. Below are information and tools to help you learn to recognize and fight the bots and trolls that help spread "fake news" !
Per a 2017 study in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, the purveyors of bots and trolls typically do not seek a specific outcome; rather, they deploy them to sow chaos, confusion and paranoia in order to disrupt institutions great and small. They typically can be found in online message boards and social media outlets, and can be deployed in a variety of situations.
A Twitter bot is a type of automated software that controls a Twitter account. Automation of such accounts is governed by a set of rules governing use. Improper usage includes circumventing automation rate limits, a key indicator of nefarious bot behavior.
Experts use multiple criteria to judge whether a particular Twitter account is a bot. Learn to recognize some key telltale signs!
4chan, an online message board in which users remain anonymous, was responsible for some of the largest hoaxes, cyberbullying incidents and Internet pranks of the past few years, while Reddit has its own troubled history with fake news. While these and other message boards are by no means inherently bad, news and information appearing on such outlets should be treated with caution.
In June 2018, the European Parliament reported on fake news and disinformation attacks on member states, listing key actions to be taken in response. Strategies included:
Bots and trolls had a disruptive influence on the 2016 U.S. presidential election, spreading disinformation and propaganda via multiple outlets. We can diminish their influence by educating ourselves and by ignoring them!
Hamilton 2.0 is a website developed by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan, transatlantic initiative that works to publicly document and expose the ongoing efforts by Vladimir Putin and other authoritarian regimes to subvert democracy in the United States, Europe, and globally. Site users can view snapshots of Twitter bot traffic and view hot topics/hashtags and trending domains and URLs.
Per behavioral scientist Caroline Orr, an "astroturfed " social media campaign is a coordinated effort to sway public opinion in a particular direction by manipulating people's online behavior on multiple media outlets. Such campaigns typically consist of the following tactics:
"Astroturf" campaign tactics push a specific message into public debate by artificial means, resulting in:
Knight Institute at Columbia University visiting researcher Arvind Narayanan is conducting a study on algorithmic amplification, which will include an exploration of how algorithms can be manipulated in various ways such as a "astroturfing." Stay tuned.
"Pizzagate" is a debunked conspiracy theory that went viral during the 2016 United States presidential election cycle, and an excellent example of how message boards and social media can rapidly spread fake news that does real world harm. Click here for an approximate timeline of the bizarre but true series of events.
“Propaganda is amazing. People can be led to believe anything.” - Alice Walker
Artificial amplification (aka "signal boosting") of media content is a cause for concern because it can make it relatively easy to manipulate mass opinion, which in turn can have disastrous effects on the stability of democratic systems of governance.
Internet trolling is a behavior in which users post derogatory or false messages in a public forum such as a message board, newsgroup or social media. The purpose of trolling is to provoke others into displaying emotional responses or to normalize tangential discussion either for amusement or personal gain.
In a survey conducted in 2016, 64% of adults said that fake news had caused a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events, while 23% said they themselves have shared a made-up news story online. In the United States, 93% of adults get at least some of that news online, either via mobile or desktop applications. Social media are a key driver of traffic to news sites, with Facebook leading the way.
Source: Pew Research Center