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Elon Musk buys 9 percent stake in Twitter

Fake news, abuse, and disinformation have always existed, but they have taken on new dimensions with the rise of social media. Now we’re questioning how the internet affects our decisions, social cohesion, and social behaviors.

Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of Tesla, raised the issue by conducting a poll on his Twitter account, challenging the platform’s guarantee of free expression. Following this, he purchased over 10% of Twitter shares this week. Isn’t it intriguing?

The poll’s results were even more intriguing. The vast majority of respondents, 70%, did not believe Twitter upholds the idea of free expression. Anyway, it’s a skewed survey because it’s intended towards Musk’s supporters — It is not based on any scientific evidence.

Elon Musk’s Poll

Earlier this week, Musk sent another controversial post, stating that he would strive to “make big changes to Twitter,” as well as a new poll, this time asking if his followers wanted an edit button. Twitter quickly responded, stating that Musk will not make decisions on product roadmaps and that the edit button was in development long before the billionaire’s vote.

Musk has a history of complaining about Twitter’s moderation capabilities, despite the fact that his anti-vaccine messages and poor “jokes” featuring even Hitler were not erased by the social media network. Because of the moderating tools, Musk compares the new CEO of Twitter, Parag Agrawal, to Joseph Stalin, for example.

Blaming Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube (or even current and previous generations) for limiting our freedom of expression is only scratching the surface of the problem. Manipulation, bogus news, and even censorship appear to be every social media user’s daily meal.

The key question is, who should we believe? How can we come to trust our own timetable? And how can you avoid personal harm as a result of it? In this post, we will look at the riddles surrounding our freedom of expression and social media in the present day.

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Elections provide a rapid picture of the political scene.

The Cambridge Analytica Scandal, which revealed how the US Republican Party inappropriately used Facebook data to develop voter profiles in the 2014 elections, was one of the first incidents in which people began discussing about this issue.

The reaction was the first indication of how social media might influence behavior. And it also sparked a slew of conspiracy theories, all of which addressed the same question: If we’re being influenced through social media, do we truly have free speech?

In other cases, political leaders, such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, have shown support for alternative social platforms, such as Telegram, which the Brazilian court sought to restrict. Other platforms, such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, have turned him down for breaking the rules to avoid spreading misinformation.

However, not all of the stories and controversies are negative. Yes, there have been several occasions when social media has shown to be really valuable in political situations.

For example, in 2011, Facebook and Twitter were extremely effective in organizing a revolt against the Egyptian government. In addition, in Venezuela, social media is critical for journalists who have been barred from using traditional media outlets such as radio and television.

And, during the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Ukrainian influencers used TikTok to disseminate photographs of the conflict when the mainstream media was not doing so. At the same time, the platform was being used to spread a lot of false information about the conflict.

Media accountability

Another scandal arose in 2021 during the US elections. Twitter found that Trump’s statements on the social media network incited violence in the United States Capital. Later, his account was permanently barred from the platform.

I’m not going to say whether or not removing Donald Trump’s Twitter profile was a wise idea. The only thing I’m certain of is that what we say on social media has a genuine influence on reality. As a result, we should begin to consider accountability.

Polarization, which has been a major issue in recent years, is something we should be more worried about. Why? Because divisiveness has a genuine influence on democracy and brings hate rhetoric. Facebook, for example, noticed this and recognized it as a commercial potential. However, it does not assist us in thinking logically, but rather in a very prejudiced manner.

As I mentioned at the outset, manipulation has always occurred, but with social media, it appears that individuals have less filters to determine what is accurate or dependable.

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The algorithm and the fight against fake news

With social media, we are on two sides: we generate material while also consuming it. A phenomena that did not occur with television, film, or radio, in which someone spoke on behalf of the public. Now, the masses talk and consume – and share (which causes some good things, such as a fundraising drive, to become viral, but also harmful ones, such as fake news and hate speech).

Do you want to learn how to spot fake news and misinformation? Here are some pointers:

Examine your unconscious prejudice. Fake news is known for reinforcing negative preconceptions. So, ask yourself if something bothers you because it is true. Or am I just being a jerk?
Doubt it if there are too many misspelled words or grammatical faults. The same effect happens whether you watch a movie or look at an image. They may not be true if they lack a high level of quality.
Investigate the original sources: disinformation can exaggerate the truth.
Follow professionals in fact-checking on social media and their websites.
Take extreme content with caution. The actual world is not a film with a terrible man and a nice one. If you witness something that incites violence towards anyone, please report it. And don’t retaliate aggressively. We are humans, and we can fix our issues by talking about them.

Changes to be expected
As the debate persists, several governments have begun to consider regulation measures for social media companies. The objective is to combat hate speech, crimes in general, and harassment by developing guidelines for service providers to monitor this sort of information. In December, for example, Instagram’s CEO, Adam Mosseri, had to meet with US Senators and was told, “Self-policing depends on trust, and trust is gone.” Europe is likewise debating the same issue.

At the same time, the situation is beginning to shift. Pinterest, for example, altered its community standards and algorithm to be more inclusive, offer prominence to minorities, and combat climate change disinformation.

For brands, this means, that if they want to have higher visibility, they will also have to think about how they will include these minorities in their communications.

Even before its scandal last year, Facebook was already trying to be more aware of some sensitive content. In 2020, during the pandemic, lots of anti-vaccine posts were published on social media platforms to scare people and prevent them from taking their shots – Musk included. Taking the virality of these platforms could cause lots of people to die and make the pandemic continue for longer.
In this case, both Twitter and Instagram, showed warning signals every time someone made a post about covid or vaccinations explaining the importance of protecting yourself. In the last year, Meta

For companies, this implies that if they want to be more visible, they must consider how they will integrate these minorities in their communications.

Facebook was already attempting to be more conscious of some sensitive information prior to its controversy last year. During the pandemic in 2020, several anti-vaccine articles were made on social media platforms in order to terrify people and keep them from getting their injections — Musk included. Considering the virality of these platforms, this might result in a large number of deaths, causing the pandemic to last longer.
In this situation, Twitter and Instagram both displayed caution signs whenever someone posted about covid or immunizations, emphasizing the necessity of protecting yourself. Meta, for example, has had a successful year in the recent year. (Facebook and Instagram’s parent corporation) confessed to removing 9,2 million harassing postings. Is this enough?

In addition, Twitter and Instagram have declared that they are transitioning to chronological feeds to avoid people having access to just mass-shared information — which tends to bring more fake news, and hate speech, and excludes minorities. It’s only the beginning.

Tell us… Were you aware of the multiple consequences fake news and hate speech leave to our democracy?

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