Top Pro & Con Arguments
Social media encourages the spread of misinformation.
Social media users frequently collect in echo chambers, which are generally figurative but sometimes literal places where similarities among people greatly outnumber differences. Users may share biases, political affiliations, gender, race, sexual orientation, income, employment status, or any number of other demographic identifiers.
Echo chambers allow misinformation to flourish because users are less likely to fact-check a post by someone with whom they identify and want to agree. Outside of an echo chamber, someone is more likely to fact-check and stem the misinformation before it goes viral. Further, within an echo chamber, extreme misinformation is more likely to go viral to encourage engagement on the social media platform among the echo chamber’s participants.
Social media platforms exploit and manipulate the impulse for like-minded people to gather by programming algorithms to show more information of the same vein and by not controlling the bots and trolls that spread misinformation.
“Human biases play an important role: Since we’re more likely to react to content that taps into our existing grievances and beliefs, inflammatory tweets will generate quick engagement. It’s only after that engagement happens that the technical side kicks in: If a tweet is retweeted, favorited, or replied to by enough of its first viewers, the newsfeed algorithm will show it to more users, at which point it will tap into the biases of those users too—prompting even more engagement, and so on. At its worse [sic], this cycle can turn social media into a kind of confirmation bias machine, one perfectly tailored for the spread of misinformation,” explained Chris Meserole, Director of Research for the Brookings Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative.
According to a 2022 study, “[d]isaster, health, and politics emerged as the three domains where misinformation [on social media] can cause severe harm, often leading to casualties or even irreversible effects…. [For example,] misinformation in these areas has higher potential to exacerbate the existing crisis in society.”
Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted about the COVID-19 pandemic: “We are not just fighting an epidemic; we are fighting an infodemic,” referring to the misinformation populating social media feeds about the virus. The same might be said about any number of topics populating social media feeds.Read More