Isn’t it contradictory that it is more difficult to get information in a century in which access to knowledge is so easy and cheap? Doesn’t it strike you that with so much technology we spend more time checking if news is false than finding it? All this is magnified with social networks, the medium that most people use to keep up to date today.
The topic of fake news and, in general, misinformation, is broad,
In this space you will find the main reasons why people share hoaxes on social networks, both intentionally and unconsciously, and how to fight against it. The first step is always to become aware of reality, so let’s go with it.
Intentional dissemination of false information on social media
Those who are dedicated to influencing people to manipulate their behavior, whether for commercial or criminal purposes, know that there are effective ways to take advantage of people. Let’s see some of them:
- Intentional and selective concealment of information: the media are companies with their own ideology. This obviously eliminates impartiality, but giving an appearance of it is required. The best way to maintain this façade is to give truthful information, but trimmed down.
- Clickbates: One of the most abundant fake news on the web is this type of headline. They appeal to the emotionality of the readers with eye-catching headlines to prevent them from using critical thinking. An example is the typical advertisements with titles such as “you will not believe that this food makes you lose 10 kilos in a week”.
- Chains and hoaxes: both in social networks and in instant messaging, it is common to find message chains that try to warn about dangers that are not real. The objective is usually to collect data from users, swindle them or spread false information massively.
- Manipulated humor: while it is true that satire has always existed as a political weapon, there is a difference with its use for disinformation. Thus, people who want to influence the opinions of others spread jokes, memes or humorous publications that intentionally include false information.
- Deepfakes: this type of digital audiovisual montage requires artificial intelligence programs. They are incredibly real, making them useful tools for those who want to spread almost unrecognizable lies.
Everything mentioned above puts the reader in a clear position: how do I avoid being the vehicle for disseminating false information on social networks if anyone has the means to deceive me?
The first step for this will be, as always, to detect on what mental mechanisms these hoaxes try to operate. Let’s see it.
Mental shortcuts (heuristics)
our processing capacity is regulated by the following mechanisms
- Representativeness bias: pigeonholing someone into a category based on new information. For example: “The coronavirus is the fault of the Chinese because they eat bats.”
- Availability heuristic: a person makes a judgment about the probability of an event happening based on their own experience and knowledge, without taking into account the rest of the information. “Once a man touched my ass in a nightclub, so if I go to a gay joint, all the homosexuals are going to harass me.”
- Anchoring bias: forming opinions and making decisions based on the first information received. An example of this is the illegal immigration figures, which are often presented as an invasion of millions of evil people, when in fact they are few and inoffensive, and people do not stop to look for the real data.
Lack of attention
The current design of social media platforms is based on bombarding the user with massive amounts of information.
illusion of knowledge
What to do to avoid spreading false information on social networks?
First of all, never disable critical thinking .
On the other hand, it is necessary to live more slowly
There has always been disinformation, sensationalism and the manipulation of the masses. The current problem is not so much its existence (that too), but that false information has found an unlimited channel of dissemination on social networks and, in general, on the Internet. In a world where the real filters have to be individual and diverse people and official regulation is still a joke, the only useful tool is accountability.