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Why We Shouldn't Rely Solely on Social Media Companies to Solve the Disinformation Problem
If you’ve read the news lately, you’ve seen Facebook at the center of an ongoing conversation about disinformation. Most recently they announced their removal of 1.5 billion fake accounts in the last six months. They aren’t alone. Twitter recently released a trove of over 10 million tweets that they say represents the full scope of foreign influence operations. While this may seem like Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms, are taking action in removing coordinated accounts and identifying foreign influence operations, this simply is not enough to beat disinformation. Instead it merely represents a small step in solving the larger problem.
Disinformation is a fundamental attack on our information ecosystem. It impacts individuals, brands, industries, and governments. When ideologies are being manipulation, and false consensus is being created, more action is required beyond just account removal after the fact.
But it seems unfair to rely on Facebook, and other social media platforms to provide an all encompassing solution to this massive problem. Yet they are the primary entity we are holding accountable. According to a recent Hubspot survey, 65% of social media users think that networks like Facebook, and Twitter, should remove factually incorrect content from their site.
This begs the question, does providing a disinformation solution and social media risk protection lie solely in the hands of social media companies? And furthermore, if we can’t rely on social platform companies like Facebook and Twitter to fix the social media disinformation problem, then who?
The role of social media in disinformation
When it comes to disinformation, social media has provided a platform for disinformation to thrive. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, 4chan, and even movie review sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB have been impacted by disinformation and malign influence. What may seem like a slew of posts or tweets expressing dissenting opinions surrounding a topic, can quickly spread, go viral, and before you know it be covered by mainstream media outlets.
And for that reason, it’s no surprise that social media networks have been at the center of the disinformation black-lash. There have been Senate Intelligence Committee hearings surrounding Facebook’s role in foreign influence operations during the 2016 presidential election. In August, disinformation experts, including New Knowledge’s Director of Research Renee DiResta, took the stand before the committee to say that we can’t solely just hold social media companies accountable, but instead must hold the government accountable as well. But it’s a balancing act, both tech platforms and the government alike need to decide how to respond to information operations while preserving our commitment to free speech and the free flow of ideas.
The disinformation problem spans larger than a political problem. Tactics that were leveraged to meddle in our election have since evolved, and are taking on new forms and are honing in on new targets: brands.
It’s up to us to take action
When it comes to who should be held accountable for finding a disinformation solution, the answer in short is all of us. It’s up to brands and organizations to take a proactive approach to make sure that their social communities and the narratives are genuine and reflective of their brand. It’s up to citizens, and consumers of information to identify posts that seem out of the ordinary and flag them.
But just like any other facet of business, brands can’t afford to wait around for another entity or organization to solve their disinformation problem.
Brands don’t have to do it all on their own however, and they don’t have to rely solely on social media companies to identify coordinated threats. Disinformation defense solutions provide companies with the ability to leverage sophisticated technology that specializes in detecting and defending against these threats. CB Insights recently named disinformation defense one of the emerging forms of business that will shape 2019.
Disinformation is not a fad that will die out. It is a growing problem that jeopardizes public trust and the entirety of our information ecosystem. Responsible brands can’t wait around for social media companies to fix it or for the problem to fix itself. It’s up to them to proactively take action now.