Journalism via Social Media: Hate Speech, Disinformation, Russian Law?

By Emiree Campbell

Free speech and Social media are not getting along these days. Disinformation is more accessible than ever before. With social media being a big part of our daily lives, conspiracy theories and hoaxes are sure to come our way. Some may ask are officials protecting us from potential danger or abusing our right granted by the first amendment?

It is clear that Former President Donald Trump’s twitter rants are the very cause of the attack on the capital. This influencing both Facebook and Twitter entirely to block Trump from their platform. According to the WSJ Article titled ” Russia Restricts Twitter Speed Over Banned Content”, this action raised questions like, “who gets to decide what can and cannot be said on the internet?” One thing that I found most interesting from the article was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s , comment ” The more people being able to share their experiences and perspectives has always been necessary to build a more inclusive society, and while I certainly worry about the erosion of truth I don’t think most people want to live in a world where you can only post things tech companies judge to be a hundred percent true.” I think most can agree with this, disinformation is dangerous however limiting others freedom of speech is equally dangerous. Although Russia seems to have other ideas in mind.

According to the New York Times, Russia says it is slowing access to Twitter. Moscow accused Twitter of failing to remove content it deemed illegal. Shortly after this accusation, a number of government websites underwent a short outage. Russia’s regulator, Roskomnadzor, accused the American company of failing for years to remove posts about illegal drug use, child pornography and messages “pushing minors toward suicide.”

“With the aim of protecting Russian citizens and forcing the internet service to follow the law on the territory of the Russian Federation, centralized reactive measures have been taken against Twitter starting March 10, 2021 — specifically, the initial throttling of the service’s speeds, in accordance with the regulations,” the regulator said. “If the internet service Twitter continues to ignore the demands of the law, measures against it will continue in accordance with the regulations, up to and including blocking it,” he added.

Russia ultimately wants Twitter blocked. They saw the opportunity and ran with it. With Russia being under Putin’s authoritarian rule and Twitter serving as a freedom landmark. This poses a threat to their system. Although it is important to eliminate danger and protect your citizens at all cost, to block Twitter from your country entirely, raises speculation.

Trump Ban From Facebook

TBy Emiree Campbell

Former President Donald Trump has caused a lot of problems for Facebook but banning him alone will not solve the problem. It’s only a matter of time for another political figure to come about and do the exact same thing. I think Facebook should implement a policy to handle these types of things. I also believe that Facebook should be ready for heavy scrutiny from most because no matter their decision they’ll be wrong to someone. I guess what we’re looking at in a nutshell is the safety for the public or upholding someone’s freedom of speech. Will banning Trump indefinitely violate democracy? Will banning Trump solve the dissemination of disinformation? What will Facebook do about future politicians who cause another mayhem? This is not an easy decision and these are questions to think about. 

There is no doubt that Trump’s fully responsible for the attack on the capital back in January. Some people died. This is serious and that is how much impact Trump has on a vast majority. So I understand why Facebook is eager to ban Trump. However, will it solve anything? I don’t know. That is not an easy question to answer. Banning Trump may cause outrage and he’ll find other ways to misinform the public as he once did. Trump after all stated he will form his own social media platform. 

According to an NPR article Trump said Facebook as well as Twitter and Google, had taken away his free speech. He said their actions were “a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our country.” I don’t know exactly how to feel about this. Some part of me finds it hilarious because Trump is an embarrassment to our country with half of the things he has done and still continues to say. However, some part of me believes this to be true. Our freedom of speech is our right granted by the first amendment and although what he said prompted violence to a certain degree it’s warranted. I’m not saying that I miss his presence on any platform to be clear I do not. However, Facebook has to keep these things in mind. Which is why I stress that they implement a policy to handle things as such.

If the decision was up to me I would allow Trump back on the platform where his account will be placed under heavy scrutiny. I would make sure he is aware that lies, hate speech, and Disinformation will not be tolerated. If he does not respect that then I will fall through with an indefinite ban on Trump. Fortunately that decision is not up to me.Hopefully. Facebook makes the right decision if there is any. 

Social Media Versus Lies and False Claims

By Emiree Campbell

Misinformation, disinformation, lies and false claims are officially getting out of hand. Social media will succumb to this falsehood with no return. This is not something that can be easily fixed. It will take a miracle to stop the dissemination of lies.

An article from Nieman says that the NewsGuard team has so far identified 371 sites guilty of publishing COVID-19 falsehoods in their Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking Center, that’s more than 80 percent that has been flagged by the team for publishing misinformation about other topics unrelated to the pandemic. The topics are centered around the election, 5G towers, and the vaccine. 

What I found most interesting from the article was that it mentioned steps needed to fix this issue. The first step suggested that advertisers, ad exchanges, and agencies take action by prioritizing misinformation and promote the truth. The second step states that platforms need to take more responsibility and provide more transparency. The last step requires everyone to develop strong digital news and media literacy.

These steps are a start but it’s not going to solve the issue at hand. Publishers will find a way to continue to harm and obscure the truth. It’s bound to happen. People are easily influenced and as long as people are able to post false content, rumors and lies will continue to fly. Big tech giants can’t solve the issue by blocking and flagging everything and everyone. People will argue that their rights are being violated and that platforms don’t value others’ opinions or beliefs that go against the main (truthful) narrative.

The recent Bloomberg news piece on Trump possibly returning to Facebook made me think, this is a huge mistake. Former President Donald Trump’s social media post reflected heavy lies and disinformation. He caused the attack on the capital that resulted in five deaths. I think Facebook should make an example out of Trump as other similar leaders are watching. Twitter chose to ban Trump indefinitely and I agree with this action. Trump intentionally wants to influence the public with lies. He has to be held accountable and big tech giants cannot give him that kind of power on their platforms. Enough is enough and something needs to be done. The internet is drowning with lies, sooner than later we won’t know what to believe. 

YouTube Plays a Huge Role in the Dissemination of Mis and Disinformation

By Emiree Campbell

YouTube is a huge social media platform whereas billions of it users post and share content that may or may not be true.

The dissemination of mis and disinformation is growing at a pace we can no longer keep up with. Misinformation is false information, however it is not intended. While disinformation is false information with the intention of changing someone’s perspective. While one is innocent, they’re both equally dangerous.

The way it spreads is quite simple. YouTube users pull in content from YouTube and share it onto another platform. This bringing the content another stage of life, a new beginning. So you can see that this is not only a problem for YouTube but for other platforms as well especially Facebook. What is most shocking is that YouTube is well aware of its influence, and still allows these videos to serve as resources. This not helping the cause at all. YouTube is very popular especially since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to a Pew report, YouTube saw the most significant growth of any social media app among American users during the pandemic, the Pew Research Center reported in a new report released Wednesday. The Google-owned video service saw usage grow from 73 percent of U.S. adults in 2019 to 81 percent in 2021. That was followed most closely by Reddit, which saw usage grow from 11 percent of U.S. adults in 2019 to 18 percent in 2021. The conclusions are from a survey of 1,502 U.S. adults conducted between January 25 and February 8. 

While YouTube continues to grow you can only predict that the platform will soon become flooded with lies and rumors. By this time it may be too late, the world may just have to judge everything with an iron fist or be brainwashed by the majority.


Journalists Rule Twitter as an Authoritative and Legitimate Power?

By Emiree Campbell

According to the Nieman lab article, titled “ When Journalists put tweets in news stories, do they transfer too much power to Twitter?” it states Journalists have transferred some of their own power over presentation of current news to Twitter. At first this statement seemed excessive but when you really think about it, it’s true. The way Twitter is presented in many news publications shows audiences that this news is true. Thus, making Twitter an authoritative and legitimate power.

This wasn’t the journalist’s motive, this just happened. Audiences grew to believe by the association, that all information on Twitter is real and can be trusted. So can most stop pointing their fingers at politicians and social media companies when the issue at hand is the spreading of disinformation. 

Journalistic authority is very important. It comes from consistency. Journalists have to show evidence of their process and explain where all information comes from. A way that audiences grant journalists this authority, is by seeing journalists vetting sources, interrogating them, verifying information, and lastly communicating it. 

Journalists through this process show who has power to speak and position themselves near those sources. Journalists commonly make this mistake with the inclusion of Twitter. Audiences can easily look up the profiles of the politicians or the source mentioned in the publication and verify information for themselves.

 However what audiences and journalists are failing to do is judge whether what’s being said by them (Politicians, Twitter sources) is true. Instead information is mentioned and is used as content. Twitter is a cut corner towards this process. Especially when a tweet is the primary source for a story. A great example of this would be Former President Donald Trump. His presidency influenced this greatly. 

This type of journalism pushes the public back not forward. It leads to a heap of chaos and misinformation. It doesn’t benefit and or support our democracy. Although this action brings attention to things that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Twitter should undergo scrutiny just as any other source commonly would. 

Social Media Flooded With Fake News

By Emiree Campbell

Fake news has always been a problem. However with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the election, fake news is more dangerous now than ever before. Former President Donald Trump can be the blame. The media was infested with Trump and his publicity stunts for so long that it is possible that reporters are also the blame for the spread of misinformation. 

Trump and his heavy social media inclusion in most news publications made him an even more authoritative power.Which made it so easy for him to influence so many. Audiences soon believed that everything he said was true. 

According to a NPR Newscast titled “ Examining How The Trump Years Helped To Shape The Media” NPR reporter David Folkenflik reports on how journalists faced Trump and how it changed them. The newcast mentions that the past four years were a constant challenge for members of the media. Trump’s departing business model attacked the media and led a sustained attack on truth. Trump’s constant disinformation and welcoming of conspiracy theories and claiming he won an election that he did not leave journalists fighting an never ending battle. Some may have even joined him.

Carl Cameron, former Fox News Chief Political Correspondent said “ It’s up to the media to be believable, and it shouldn’t be so easy for one guy to knock it all down.”

What’s even more shocking about this is that the very reason Carl left fox news was because Trump won the election. According to CNN,  Cameron said “The news division at Fox News Channel has always worked hard to be truly fair and balanced and to be accurate, the opinion hosts in prime-time and elsewhere on Fox had become more than I could stand”.

“Trump’s going out just as he came in. The media, caught in his vortex, has changed appreciably.” said David. 

While reading Niemanlab’s article titled “Fear, surprise, disgust: Fake news spreads faster than some real news on twitter” It wasn’t surprising to read that fake news reached and spreaded faster than the truth. 

Fake news for some odd reason is exciting to most. It is the “what” that someone is hiding. It’s almost like gossip, it’s just a rumor but it’s exciting and carries weight. It won’t die down easily.Which is why social media is flooded with it. 

The article mentioned that MIT researchers found that false news is 70 percent more likely to be shared on Twitter than true stories. What was shocking is that researchers believed at one point that bots were responsible for this plague of bad news when in all reality it was humans with very small followers or fan bases. 

According to a CBS Newscast titled “How social media algorithms shape the way we get information and news” Conserative Politicians and outlets argued that platforms are biased to the problem at hand. It’s hard to completely disagree especially when platforms like Facebook blame the algorithms.

Algorithms are used by many social media platforms and it is responsible for showing users what they want to see. It does so by remembering the things you liked, reposted or shared. It gives one content similar to their worldview.  

So when Facebook and other platforms notice a user likes content filled with hate speech or violence towards a particular group of people this behavior should raise some flags and call for action. Although it may be hard because billions of users use their media accounts daily, it’s a price platforms can pay when lives are now at stake. 

Social Media and the Dissemination of Disinformation, a Double Edged Knife towards our Democracy

By Emiree Campbell

The correlation between social media and the dissemination of disinformation is very frightening now more than ever. Amidst the pandemic we also have to worry about the aftermath this correlation has caused us and will continue to cause us if not properly addressed. The attack on the capital due to former President Trump’s twitter rants on the legitimacy of the election. The huge out roar and leading protests executed by members of the BLM movement concerning the killing of George Floyd. This much is understandable however the advertising and postings of police brutality well enough encouraged riots. The conspiracy theories surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and QAnon, this hurting the trust of many Americans across the country in our medical advances and top members of the democratic party.

I believe Tech Giants are in a difficult place, not only do they have to ensure our safety by adopting and implementing policies on Civic Integrity, Public Health, and Violence & Extremism. They also have to remember and protect our freedom of speech. I don’t believe this is a win- win situation. In some shape or form our democracy is being attacked by a double edged knife.

What I found most interesting was that social media platforms already changed hundreds of policies within the past year and half of them have failed to address the issues of disinformation. A report issued by Decode Democracy deem tech companies self regulation practices insufficient and urges lawmakers to take action. This report focuses on nine popular platforms Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, and lastly TikTok. Between August 1, 2019 and January 22, 2021, these companies altogether have made 321 policy changes.

The report argues that despite those changes social media platforms have largely failed to alleviate the growing problem of online disinformation. This knowledge worries me. Why not fix the problem at hand sooner rather than later. Shouldn’t the most opposing threat be dealt with first? It is extremely irresponsible to fix something after the worst has happened. Tech giants cannot afford to be irresponsible when the lives of many are at stake. 

However, some part of me feels indifferent about these news laws restricting the dissemination of disinformation. I say this because it’s attacking a form of freedom of speech. If these laws are put in place we the people are safe from lies and hate speech however we will never know the true characteristics of a person. You can learn a lot about someone based on the content they share and partake in. Are these laws really providing a source of security?