Misinformation Spread on Social Media and What It Causes
The internet, through social media, enables people to spread information or acquire it from others. The Internet has numerous benefits to global society such as enabling real-time citizen journalism. However, it has led to an increased spread of misinformation, commonly referred to as fake news. Persons of all ages including the young and old rely on social media today to receive and convey information. However, the spread of false information has taken center stage in the use of social media today. Misinformation spread through the Internet revolves around intent and knowledge content. Regarding intent, false information appears in the form of misinformation and disinformation. Misinformation is created or spread without the intent to mislead or deceive the reader. Distortion and misinterpretation of the actual readings and lack of understanding of the written content commonly cause misinformation, usually spread via blogs, comments, and articles. Concerning knowledge content, false information is classified as opinion-based and fact-based. Opinion-based information is created and spread depending on an individual’s or a group’s opinions about a given situation or issue. Fact-based information focuses on the spread of information depending on the statistics or facts from reliable and credible information sources. Social media has provided a platform for spreading misinformation that has adverse impacts on persons and society at large.
Misinformation Spread on Social Media
Misinformation that is spread on social media platforms revolves around three types of bias including bias in the brain, society, and machine. Bias in the brain is attributed to the cognitive bias that originates in the way a person’s brain processes given information. A person’s brain can only deal with a finite amount of information, which means that information can increase or determine how the brain operates or responds. In most cases, a person may not understand or poorly interpret information obtained on social media but he or she will go ahead to convey the information to others in a different manner. The dissemination of information that is different from what has initially intended results in the spread of misinformation. There are interventions in places such as new literacy game applications that help social media users to interpret and correctly establish the quality of information available on various social media sources and the reliability of sources (Meserole, 2018).
Another source of information bias is societal influence. This is because most humans are guided by social biases linked directly to societal influence (Marshall, Goodman, Zowghi, & Da Rimini, 2015). Disinformation based on bias in society is rampant on Twitter. Statistics indicate that on Twitter, dense core groups of accounts often retweet each other exclusively. The retweets aid in the circulation or spread of disinformation depicting the influence of the peers on an individuals’ perception and understanding of certain facts. Information bias also rises from the algorithms used to determine what social media users see online. Both social media platforms and search engines are perceived to employ these algorithms to enable the selection of relevant content for each of their users. The said selection largely manipulates the cognitive thinking and social view or opinions of a user. For example, advertising tools in many social media platforms are designed in a manner that only spread the message to the people who are inclined to believe them.
Impacts of Misinformation Spread on Social Media
An adverse impact of misinformation spread on social media is that it causes confusion among the public. As a result of misinformation spread on social media, users are usually unsure of true or reliable sources of information and who to believe. The rapid media change plays a crucial role in generating public confusion leaving persons disoriented. Disinformation leads to cynicism. Cynicism is defined as the situation in which the general population losses trust in the most trustworthy and reliable sources due to the rampant spread of fake news by various social media sites, and news media (Kumar & Shah, 2018). Disinformation spread on social media also leads to fragmentation within the global society. This is depicted in the fact that the wide range of agreed facts that society could base their choices on is increasingly diminishing. Moreover, the spread of fake news that is becoming common in social media leads to irresponsibility amongst many individuals. For instance, the absence of ethical codes in some organizations has seen many people rely on the facts from the social and news media platforms to acquire the work standards hence ending up being misled.
The advent of the internet paved the way for social media that has enabled communication among users and the spread of information. One biggest challenge in the use of social media is the increasing spread of misinformation that has adverse impacts both on users and society at large. Misinformation spread can occur when a social media user does not understand or misinterprets information on social media and proceeds to convey the same to other users in words different from what was initially intended. Societal influence also leads to the spread of misinformation. The phenomenon has adverse impacts including causing confusion among the public, cynicism, fragmentation within global society, as well as irresponsibility among social media users.
Kumar, S., & Shah, N. (2018). False Information on Web and Social Media: A Survey. arXiv preprint arXiv:1804.08559. Retrieved from https://arxiv.org/pdf/1804.08559.pdf
Marshall, J. P., Goodman, J., Zowghi, D., & Da Rimini, F. (2015). Disorder and The Disinformation Society: The Social Dynamics of Information, Networks and Software. New York: Routledge. Retrieved from https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=knBKCAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Disorder+and+the+Disinformation+Society:+The+Social+Dynamics+of+Information,+Networks+and+Software&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiwkbfBxIbiAhVHJBoKHXbyANcQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q&f=false
Meserole, C. (2018, May 09). How misinformation spreads on social media and what to do about it. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/05/09/how-misinformation-spreads-on-social-media-and-what-to-do-about-it/