If there is an increasing tendency to get information on social networks, they are also increasingly a breeding ground for fake news. This surge in this disinformation is no accident – quite the contrary. Shoelifer explains it all.

Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, never before has so much fake news circulated on social networks. It’s not Shoelifer who says it, but Thomas Huchon, investigative journalist and social media specialist. Of particular concern to this Web 2.0 expert is the social network, X (formerly Twitter), because of the changes made by its new owner, Elon Musk, which have contributed to the surge of fake news. Among them are an alleged bombing of a church in Gaza and the video of a supposed Israeli child held in a cage by Hamas (false and false again). The editor is not able to establish an exhaustive list as the flood of disinformation is overwhelming, but we urge you, dear readers, to take a step back and assess what you’re seeing, however you feel about this issue.



Why? First, because the incessant flow of information and fake news on social media creates informational and emotional chaos. So, think about preserving your intellect and mental health. And, most importantly, avoid being manipulated. Because social media (and the Big Tech companies associated with them) are masters of mass manipulation. In reality, operators create toxic and hostile environments by integrating artificial intelligence (AI) to maximize user engagement.

To make this work, it only takes two ingredients. First, exploit the negative cognitive bias of humans. We tend to prioritize information that conveys danger (survival instinct at play). As a concrete example consider how when a vaccine is discovered, a headline announces that it’s 90% effective but might render you sterile. You will undoubtedly remember the second part of the message. You might even be tempted to learn more (hello Google searches, etc.).

It’s at this precise moment that social media deploys their algorithms, bots, and trolls to inundate you with information and fake news on the subject. And, ultimately, create a phenomenon of mass deception that falsely appears spontaneous. In Web 2.0 jargon, this is called astroturfing. In essence, it’s propaganda for advertising, economic, or even worse, political purposes. You probably already know that Russia has become a master in this field. Their goal? Destabilize the rest of the world, nothing more. 

On the other hand, social media can use algorithms not to limit fake news, harassment, and bad faith, but to make certain users invisible. This is notably the case with Instagram (1 billion users) and its famous “shadow ban.” It often affects accounts related to feminism or minority civil rights, as demonstrated in the research conducted by Numérique Investigation. Even artists are impacted.

Rumors spread quickly

According to a study conducted a year ago by the Integrity Institute, an American research institute, X and TikTok are the champions of fake news. Over 373 million people use X daily (as of April 2023). As for the Chinese platform, it will soon have 2 billion users, primarily in the 15-25 age group. However, a study by NewsGard in 2022 shows that 20% of videos posted on TikTok contain fake news. Fake news is shared six times faster than genuine information in general. On X, a piece of fake news has a 70% higher chance of being retweeted. Why? Because fake news triggers our emotions instantly and has a stronger impact on our followers. All of this is also linked to the activation of our reward system.

Awareness and political will

As a daily consumer of social media, it is essential to take a step back and engage your critical thinking to avoid being misled by fake news. It only takes analyzing the legitimacy of the source and the authenticity of a photo or content, identifying any inconsistencies, referring to reliable and credible sources, cross-referencing information, following journalists or NGOs on the ground, distinguishing between emotion and factual reality, and sometimes simply accepting that “we don’t know.”

But for real change to occur, a genuine political will is needed from states and from Big Tech. And likely, new algorithms…

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