Debunking Denialism

Fighting pseudoscience and quackery with reason and evidence.

Tag Archives: social media

How Social Media Bots Massively Boost the Reach of Misinformation

Social media bots and misinformation

The Internet has brought wonderful opportunities that many people never thought was possible. A large chunk of the scientific, mathematical and historical knowledge mass that humans have collected over decades and centuries can now be accessed by almost anyone with an Internet connection. Want to learn about the digits of pi, details of the Roman empire or chemical data for the noble gas argon? All of it can be found on the Internet from reputable sources that you can trust. However, these riches have not come without a considerable of anti-intellectual pollution.

Because almost anyone can put up their own website or start a social media account, the spread of pseudoscience, bigotry and general nonsense is now probably larger than ever before. Flat earthers that use to be a marginalized group of wackos have now expanded their operations with thousands of hours of original materials on video hosting websites and at least tens of thousands of tweets pushing their batshit ignorance of the world. Anti-vaccine and anti-GMO activists have created entire networks of social media accounts, pages and groups to spread their dangerous nonsense to vulnerable people and may have played a role in the outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

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Current Battlefields in the Misinformation Wars

Battlefields

The spread of misinformation has never been greater. The Internet has been an amazing resource for people to access millions of scientific papers on everything from the molecular biology of cancer to climate models. However, it has also brought with it a terribly cost: misinformation can spread much easier than carefully considered facts and has the ability to emotionally manipulate millions of people into believing this that are demonstrably false. This can influence personal beliefs, consumer decisions and perhaps even national elections.

Although this is not a new problem by any stretch of the imagination, malignant threats such as post-truth, fake news, filter bubbles, “alternative” facts and fake fact checkers have spread enormously in recent years. This article takes a closer look at each of these threats, what they mean and how they can be fought. Although there are no simple answers at this point and skeptics as well as scientists struggle to find workable solutions, there are a few clues available.

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