Social Media and Disinformation in the Digital Age

by November 29, 2016 0 comments

The rise of social media in the digital age has altered the way we source our information. However, filtering the right information from the wrong one is not always easy. Social media has provided a platform to everyone to share their opinion with the world. But social networking isn’t making you smarter. In fact, it could be making you dumber by providing insights without requiring any actual thinking.

The frequency of analytical reasoning is decreasing as people are relying heavily on the internet for the source of information.

Social media has largely replaced the traditional media and people access most of the news content from Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis. News agencies and journalists are constantly keeping an eye on these platforms to get breaking news in real-time basis. However, such platforms are often floating with content that can’t be trusted and their source can’t be verified.

Post-demonetization, social media was flooded with information on this issue and many of them turned out to be a hoax or propaganda. The intensity and reach of fake information can be gauged from the fact that “award winning” journalists like Sudhir Chaudhary from Zee News and Sweta Singh from Aaj Tak declared that the new Rs 2000 note had a secret chip, which will help the central government agencies to trace the note even when it was buried under 120 meters.

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This lead many to people to believe in this information and it was widely circulated over WhatsApp and other social media platforms.

For Generation Y, social media has become a one-stop solution for easily accessible knowledge, entertainment and communication. Attention spans are dropping and information overload is leading to a lack of comprehension of the deeper subject. According to a research by Pew Research Centre, 44 percent of American adults now get their news on Facebook and 64 percent of them depend on it for the news.

According to Sociologist William Dutton, we are witnessing the emergence of powerful new voices and networks which can act independently of the traditional media. He has termed these developments the emergence of the ‘Fifth Estate’: Highly ‘Networked individuals’ (helped by new platforms like social networking and messaging). From influential bloggers to community networks and activists, these groups are becoming an alternative source of news, as well as another option for politicians, businessmen or other public figure to bypass them and take their message – unmediated – to their supporters or followers.

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However, there is a huge amount of noise and false information generated by these social networks and some of them are deliberately placed to influence the debate. We should be more concerned about the veracity of information which is posted online and it requires great judgment. It is highly important for all the stakeholders to come together to discern truth, amidst so much opinion, noise and sometimes misinformation.

The battle to uphold the truth has shifted online and technology has made it easy for propagandists and trolls to engage the audience by forming a coalition that spreads and repeats lies and propaganda in real-time basis.

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