Social Media and Misinformation in 2022
At the end of last year, it was difficult for people to imagine a worse time for social media and misinformation, given the intensity of false news stories regarding the pandemic, vaccines, and elections. However, the following year proved to be up to the task, with misinformation being shared on social media at even greater rates than before. That’s why companies should be prepared to battle misinformation in the coming year. The trend is far from over, and it seems that it’s going to continue evolving.
Although misinformation in the media has existed for a long time, with the advent of social media platforms, the rate, scope, and spread of misinformation have greatly increased. These days, social media platforms have turned into a utility that provides public information that can control the way many people perceive the world. This is one of the many reasons why misinformation on those platforms has turned into a fundamental societal problem. There are two main challenges when it comes to addressing misinformation.
The first challenge is the lack of regulatory mechanisms that address misinformation on social media platforms. This challenge can be relatively easily managed simply by mandating transparency by the platforms and giving users more access and control over their data. However, platforms also need independent analyses with tools that can evaluate each algorithm that they use. That way, people can figure out how the platforms’ own choices curate their news feeds and present content, and how that has an effect on the way they receive information.
The second challenge is the gender and racial biases that social media algorithms already possess, which make the problem with misinformation even worse. While a number of social media platforms have already introduced tools that label certain posts that contain misinformation, as well as tools that highlight authoritative information sources, these features don’t solve the algorithms’ biases when it comes to accessing information in the first place. While social media platforms can highlight which sources of information are relevant to certain topics, such as health, that’s only helpful to the users that have better health literacy, which isn’t equal between all users.
Due to the amount of misinformation on social media platforms, people that only consume news on those platforms end up becoming cynical both towards fellow voters, as well as toward established institutions. Additionally, even the people that care about being informed properly, and who try avoiding false news, aren’t immune to misinformation either. To avoid having people becoming increasingly cynical due to the rampant spread of misinformation on social media platforms, it’s important to find ways to explain the reasons for the existence of false news stories in the first place, as well as those that produce such stories. Instead of people blaming each other for misinformation, it’s best to explain the effects of it to everyone, which is one of the ways to restore confidence with the public, instead of creating more societal divisions.