Misinformation On Social Media

Credit: simarik via Unsplash

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images/iStockphoto

Credit: simarik via Unsplash

By Kathryn Puharic, Staff Writer

As many aspects of our world increasingly turn digital, our lives rely on the use of technology. Whether we want to stay up-to-date on sports, communicate with friends, or find new recipes, people are turning to social media for help. The popularization of social media has also allowed for news outlets to spread online, and people are now able to view political, economic, and social news nearly everywhere. With so many news outlets on the internet and the increased usage of social media, one might ask: How can we trust our news sources? and How can we know if the information we receive is accurate?

To understand how misinformation can spread on social media, we first have to understand how news is tailored to us. Whenever one interacts with posts on apps such as Twitter, Instagram, or even TikTok, these apps are able to design an algorithm that is specifically targeted to our interests. As Anjana Susarla of the Scientific American journal writes, “Algorithms used by social media platforms exacerbate the misinformation problem”. For example, if someone were to interact with posts favoring a certain politician, much of their feed would include posts from that specific political party. Thus, viewers are more likely to believe content simply because it includes their ideals of beliefs- even if it isn’t accurate.

Presenting untrustworthy information as fact can easily mislead viewers. As people consume more of this content, the less likely they are to listen to differing viewpoints or opinions. “This leads citizens who consume news on social media to become cynical not only toward established institutions such as politicians and the media, but also toward fellow voters”, writes Dam Hee Kim, a professor of Communications at the University of Arizona. 

So, how can we identify a credible news source? As Dr. Donna Gregory, professor at Reigs College advises: “In terms of who is posting it, you want to look at the qualifications and potential for bias. This is true for both individuals and organizations…Who is posting it? What information are they sharing? What is their intent?”