Misinformation is dividing people, destroying facts and skewing reality

This is a fascinating article with a number of real world examples of how misinformation, disinformation and malinformation are destroying civil society:

Misinformation Has Created a New World Disorder – Our willingness to share content without thinking is exploited to spread disinformation

Online misinformation has been around since the mid-1990s. But in 2016 several events made it broadly clear that darker forces had emerged: automation, microtargeting and coordination were fueling information campaigns designed to manipulate public opinion at scale. Journalists in the Philippines started raising flags as Rodrigo Duterte rose to power, buoyed by intensive Facebook activity. This was followed by unexpected results in the Brexit referendum in June and then the U.S. presidential election in November—all of which sparked researchers to systematically investigate the ways in which information was being used as a weapon.

An example:

Take, for example, the edited video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that circulated in May 2019. It was a genuine video, but an agent of disinformation slowed down the video and then posted that clip to make it seem that Pelosi was slurring her words. Just as intended, some viewers immediately began speculating that Pelosi was drunk, and the video spread on social media. Then the mainstream media picked it up, which undoubtedly made many more people aware of the video than would have originally encountered it.

A pair of solutions:

In a healthy information commons, people would still be free to express what they want—but information that is designed to mislead, incite hatred, reinforce tribalism or cause physical harm would not be amplified by algorithms. That means it would not be allowed to trend on Twitter or in the YouTube content recommender. Nor would it be chosen to appear in Facebook feeds, Reddit searches or top Google results.

Until this amplification problem is resolved, it is precisely our willingness to share without thinking that agents of disinformation will use as a weapon. Hence, a disordered information environment requires that every person recognize how he or she, too, can become a vector in the information wars and develop a set of skills to navigate communication online as well as offline.

The ultimate expression of this will be AI that can detect things like hate speech, misinformation, lies, intentionally altered or falsified content, etc. and effectively eliminate them from the public square. When that happens, the world will be a much better place.

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