WASHINGTON, DC, July 1 — Is infomania responsible for the failings in America’s political process?
The experts say social media may have changed the way our younger generations think and act. In the past, before social media became the principal source for news among the great majority of new voters, experienced newsmen and newswomen covered the events of the day in a responsible manner, for the most part.
Today, real news sources have been replaced by Internet-based apps such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and TikTok that allow rumors, lies, and misinformation to circle the globe in a matter of seconds.
A study conducted at Princeton University showed that:
- “Evidence from survey data, primary elections, and a text analysis of millions of tweets suggests that Twitter’s relatively liberal content may have persuaded voters with moderate views to vote against Donald Trump” [in both the 2016 and 2020 Presidential Elections].
- And that, “in the 2016 presidential election, Trump received fewer votes from demographic groups with higher propensities to use social media or the internet more broadly.”
It’s cause for concern that “the digital age and the rise of social media have accelerated changes to our social systems, with poorly understood functional consequences. This gap in our knowledge represents a principal challenge to scientific progress, democracy, and actions to address global crises.”
So, say 17 scientific researchers in a new report published in the science journal PNAS [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences].
The report argues that there is a general lack of understanding of the impact that social media has, and that is a worrisome danger to democracy. They claim that a greater understanding of instant-messaging technology is needed to understand what effect it is having on issues such as “election tampering, disease, violent extremism, famine, racism, and war.”
According to Carl Bergstrom, a biology professor at the University of Washington who co-authored the report: “I think that the speed with which social media, combined with a whole number of other things, has led to very widespread disinformation — [that] here in the United States [is] causing major political upheaval — is striking. How many more elections do you think we have before things get substantially worse?”
In an article published on the Meltwater Website, social media specialist Heather Satterfield points out that you must take information via messaging apps, even if it comes from a friend or relation. It is easy for you to be influenced by misinformed news even if they didn’t mean to deceive you. You can’t believe every message you receive via social media or on “fake news” Internet sites and those that traffic in satire; they can be deceptive.
Satterfield suggests that there are already efforts to allow Internet voting. In fact, 31 states have already begun to allow certain voters to return ballots electronically, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
She says that this “could lead to more people participating in elections. This could make social media even more influential, as people could literally vote moments after reading the latest comments or links they found on Facebook or Twitter.” This cannot be a good thing; in fact, it is pretty scary.
A report published by the University of Maryland prior to the 2020 Presidential Election warned that “This year, the US is experiencing one of the most anticipated and divisive elections in its history. Social media, with some 233 million users in the US and already a major communications platform, is believed to have taken on a heightened role of importance and ability to influence leading up to the election, with people relying more on virtual communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The University’s report also pointed out that in the days leading up to the election, there was an unusual increase in electronic manipulation in order to portray candidates — including President Trump — in an unfavorable manner.
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