Tag Archives: fake news

Twitter and the Presidential Election

Twitter is theoretically a social media platform where everyone is welcome, and everyone is heard. Anyone can set up an account and start creating their own personal cyberspace. Twitter has largely become a modern public square where users can share any view or belief as long as it is less than 140 characters. This has played a dramatic role in modern politics and public debate and has been especially used by President Donald Trump. President Trump uses Twitter as his prominent method of communication, and he has posted more than 11,000 tweets (Mcintire & Confessore, 2019). Twitter has many democratic functions such as allowing anyone to create an account, tweet, or retweet content that they deem to be relevant. These functions have led politicians to believe that the views expressed on Twitter are representative of the general population; however, the twitter population is not representative of the American public (Wojcik & Hughes, 2020). This paper will argue that Twitter has become a false representation of democracy because of the lack of representation of the American public among frequent tweeters, the creation of echo chambers within political discussions, and the presence of widespread misinformation.

            Twitter is not a democratic sphere because it is not representative of the American public. Democracy is a style of government that gives political control to the people by having a direct voice or an elected representative (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Twitter would be a democratic sphere if the voices and views shared were equally representative of people from every geographic and socioeconomical realm, but a study by Pew Research shows that, “Twitter users are younger, more likely to identify as Democrats, more highly educated and have higher incomes than U.S. adults overall” (Wojcik & Hughes, 2020). This is only representing a small proportion of the U.S. population and is neglecting populations that are less educated, older, or have lower income levels. Politicians may lose sight of the actual views of their political ridings if they are too consumed with the views expressed on Twitter. Further, The Atlantic writes that many Twitter users engaged in politics are self-reported extremists that contribute to creating controversy among politicians (Mounk, 2019). These extremists bring attention to political debates they are invested in while taking attention away from other important matters. Mounk concludes that Twitter has failed to connect America’s elite to the ordinary people and has instead, “Amplified the beliefs of a small band of hyper-political partisans” (2019). Twitter is not a democratic sphere because it does not accurately represent views from the general American public.

            Twitter discourages open discussion by creating ‘echo chambers’ where users are prone to interact with only those who have similar opinions to their own. Constructive discussion operates as having two varying opinions being reviewed by both parties, and then a conclusion is reached with some level of compromise. Echo chambers operate differently by magnifying the current political views of users and only showing users tweets or retweets that are like their current beliefs (Yiu, 2020). Democracy was created to encourage political discussion and have opinions and beliefs represented from all people, but Twitter tends to polarize belief systems and create further division among belief groups (Yiu, 2020). C. Nguyen, a professor of philosophy, writes that, “Echo chambers isolate their members, not by cutting off their lines of communication to the world, but by changing whom they trust” (2019). This means that as Twitter users engage in political discussion, they become entangled in tweets and media that agree with their views and they become less trusting of anyone who has a different opinion. Twitter creates a lack of democracy by creating distrust and limiting the range of opinions and media that are exposed to users.

            Twitter is not a credible democratic sphere because of its tendency to magnify false news and misinformation. An intensive study by a group of researchers at MIT found that fake news and falsehoods were far more likely to spread than the truth (Vosoughi, Roy, & Aral, 2018). Falsehoods were 70% more likely to be retweeted than accurate news, and researchers wrote that false rumours would, “Reach more people, penetrate deeper into social networks, and spread much faster than accurate stories” (Vosoughi, Roy, & Aral, 2018). This creates conflict because if users are taking to Twitter as their source of news, they are far more likely to get something false than the truth. Twitter is addressing this for the upcoming presidential election by tightening their rules regarding retweets, monitoring pre-emptive victory claims, and banning political ads (BBC News, 2020). These actions have good intentions regarding the spread of false content; however, it does not address the fact that Twitter users gravitate towards fake news. Democracy was developed by the people to find the truth of what is best for the people, but Twitter is too good at captivating people with stories of fake news.

            Twitter is not a democratic social media platform because of its false representation of the American public, its creation of polarizing echo chambers, and its tendency to share fake news. The prevalence of Twitter in modern politics has enabled politicians and officials to be more accountable and accessible to voters; however, it has also allowed politicians to access data sets of analytics on potential voters to cater campaign marketing directly at their audience (Murse, 2019). This creates the potential to target Twitter users with political marketing and propaganda that is suited to their interests and may have influence on their voting decisions. Social media and the internet have allowed for the fast spread of news and ideas, but if modern politicians rely on Twitter for their representation of public opinion, they will fail to respond to the actual views of the people, they will obsess over fake news and political scandals, and they may end up forfeiting election (Mounk, 2019).

Works Cited

BBC News. (2020, October 09). US election: Twitter tightens rules on retweets and victory claims. Retrieved October 17, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-54485697

Mcintire, M., & Confessore, N. (2019, November 02). Trump’s Twitter Presidency: 9 Key Takeaways. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/02/us/trump-twitter-takeaways.html

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Democracy. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/democracy

Mounk, Y. (2019, May 05). The Problem Isn’t Twitter. It’s That You Care About Twitter. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/04/political-leaders-should-stop-caring-about-twitter/588004/

Murse, T. (2019, August 29). Social Media in Politics – Twitter and Facebook as Campaigns Tools. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-social-media-has-changed-politics-3367534

Nguyen, C. T. (2019, October 31). The problem of living inside echo chambers. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://theconversation.com/the-problem-of-living-inside-echo-chambers-110486

Vosoughi, S., Roy, D., & Aral, S. (2018). The spread of true and false news online. Science, 359(6380), 1146-1151. doi:10.1126/science.aap9559

Wojcik, S., & Hughes, A. (2020, May 30). How Twitter Users Compare to the General Public. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2019/04/24/sizing-up-twitter-users/

Yiu, Y. (2020, March 18). Visualizing Twitter Echo Chambers. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://www.insidescience.org/news/visualizing-twitter-echo-chambers

Process Post (6) Digital Literacy & Trusting Sources

From Peer Review to Plugins

Last week, my blog was peer-reviewed for its design by my fellow classmate, Jade. She suggested I try to make my pages more interactive and dynamic. “She can try plugins for carousels, or someway incorporate some movement between the site visitors and her pages/content.  I think this could really add excitement to what she has already put out.” In light of Jade’s advice and after some of my own personal reflection on the style of my blog at the time, I implemented a couple new changes. I first reformatted my social media icons, placing them into a sidebar along with three of my most recent music playlists in which I displayed as a carousel-like slider. I achieved this look by using the MetaSlider plugin. I am also currently working on a new layout for the photos I feature in my Travel category. I was using the plugin Photo Gallery to post my photos from my trip to Sechelt, but I wasn’t fully satisfied with this plugin’s features and lack of flexibility. The font for my captions was grey and hard to read, and each photo was significantly cropped unless you clicked to expand it. I decided to switch to Elementor, a much more comprehensive and visually pleasing plugin with far fewer limitations than the previous plugin I used.

 

Combatting Fake News & Misinformation

Our lecture this week was focused on confirmation bias and digital literacy, which got me thinking about the kind of information I publish online and will in the future. This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer tells us that nearly seven in 10 respondents worry about fake news and false information being used as a weapon. This is something that’s largely out of my control, as I am just one tiny personal blog in a sea Internet news and opinion sources. But I can do my part to help combat this era of fake news. How? I am not a news source website. I identify as more of an opinion and personal experience source. But by communicating with as little bias as possible, being honest and reliable with any facts I include and linking these facts to credible sources of expertise, I can build up my own credibility and genuinely become a trusted source of information.

 

In Mike Caulfield’s article “Yes Digital Literacy. But Which One?” he stresses “domain knowledge is crucial to literacy”. This goes beyond the C.R.A.P detector we discussed in class. We must consider and understand the environment which our website sources act in, and using our tools and skills, critically analyze the info online that many of us are quick to consume without batting an eye. 

 

Online Community

My process of growing my blog and developing my publishing skills continues to build each week. This week, I thought back to a concept from my CMNS 353 course on Issues in Technology and Society. We discussed five characteristics of online communities, with one that I feel is quite relevant to the knowledge I am gaining in this course. Online communities contain an element of shared resources and support. My ideal blog would foster a sense of community and be a utility resource. It would be a place where my audience was more than just that – an audience or a readership. They would be treated as members of my website who feel securely able to share their insights and experiences with one another, as a supportive exchange of resource.Through this process, social capital (the resources people obtain because of their network of relationships) is exchanged.

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