• Social mediaAuthoritarian Regimes Employ New Twitter Tactics to Quash Dissent

    When protesters use social media to attract attention and unify, people in power may respond with tweeting tactics designed to distract and confuse, according to a new study. Authoritarian regimes appear to be growing more savvy in their use of social media to help suppress mass movements.

  • Truth decayFacebook's Ad Delivery System Deepens the U.S. Political Divide

    Facebook is wielding significant power over political discourse in the United States, thanks to an ad delivery system that reinforces political polarization among users, according to new research. The study shows for the first time that Facebook delivers political ads to its users based on the content of those ads and the information the media company has on its users—and not necessarily based on the audience intended by the advertiser.

  • ArgumentSamoa Has Become a Case Study for “Anti-Vax” Success

    In Samoa, Facebook is the main source of information. Michael Gerson writes that it is thus not surprising that anti-vaccination propaganda, much of it generated in the United States, has arrived through social media and discourages Samoan parents from vaccinating their children. “This type of import has helped turn Samoa into a case study of ‘anti-vax’ success — and increased the demand for tiny coffins decorated with flowers and butterflies,” he writes, adding: “Samoa is a reminder of a pre-vaccine past and the dystopian vision of a post-vaccine future.”

  • Argument: Social media vettingSocial Media Vetting of Visa Applicants Violates the First Amendment

    Beginning in May, the State Department has required almost every applicant for a U.S. visa—more than fourteen million people each year—to register every social media handle they’ve used over the past five years on any of twenty platforms. “There is no evidence that the social media registration requirement serves the government’s professed goals” of “strengthen” the processes for “vetting applicants and confirming their identity,” Carrie DeCell and Harsha Panduranga write, adding: “The registration requirement chills the free speech of millions of prospective visitors to the United States, to their detriment and to ours,” they write.

  • Perspective: ExtremismTelegram: The Latest Safe Haven for White Supremacists

    Telegram, the online social networking, may not be as popular in the U.S. as Twitter or Facebook, but with more than 200 million users, it has a significant audience. And it is gaining popularity. ADL reports that Telegram has become a popular online gathering place for the international white supremacist community and other extremist groups who have been displaced or banned from more popular sites.

  • MisinformationNew Research Center Will Fight Misinformation

    On 3 December, the University of Washington launched the Center for an Informed Public (CIP). The CIP, an interdisciplinary center housed in UW’s Information School, will use applied research to engage with the public through community partners such as libraries to confront the misinformation epidemic. “If we care about common goals — things like safe communities, justice, equal opportunity — we have to care also about facts, truth and accuracy,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce said. “Misinformation can be weaponized. It has been weaponized to divide us and to weaken us.”

  • ArgumentThe Dark Psychology of Social Networks

    Every communication technology brings with it different constructive and destructive effects. Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell write that it typically takes some time to find and improve the balance between these negative and positive effects. The note that as social media has aged, the initial optimism which welcomed the new technology’s introduction has been replaced by a growing awareness of the technology deleterious effects – especially on the quality and purpose of political discussion.

  • Search enginesSearch Results Not Biased Along Party Lines: Study

    In recent months, questions have arisen about big tech’s unparalleled influence over what news and information people see online. Potential political bias and censorship in search engine results are a big part of the conversation. Is the concern well-founded? In an audit of search media results for every candidate running for federal office in the 2018 U.S. election, Stanford scholars found no evidence of political bias for or against either party.

  • Perspective: The Russia connectionThe National Security Threat of Peddling Russian Disinformation

    The impeachment inquiry by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee has served as a forum for efforts by President Trump, Rudi Giuliani, and some GOP lawmakers to spread the lie fabricated by the Russian intelligence services that the interference in the 2016 U.S. election was not done by Russia to help Trump – but was carried out by Ukraine to Help Hillary Clinton! This Kremlin-fabricated canard has been thoroughly investigated by the U.S. intelligence community, and totally debunked. “Distrust is now being sown by American officials against the same government these officials purport to represent,” Cipher Brief writes.

  • CybersecurityYou Can Join the Effort to Expose Twitter Bots

    By Pik-Mai Hui and Christopher Torres-Lugo

    In the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections, more than 10,000 automated Twitter accounts got caught conducting a coordinated campaign of tweets to discourage people from voting. These automated accounts may seem authentic to some, but a tool called Botometer was able to identify them while they pretentiously argued and agreed, for example, that “democratic men who vote drown out the voice of women.” We are part of the team that developed this tool that detects the bot accounts on social media.

  • ArgumentSocial Media and the Populist Moment

    Many people, especially of the progressive persuasion, accept the “narrative that invokes the ‘sewer’ of social media to explain everything from climate-change skepticism to anti-immigration sentiment, portrays Russian trolls and YouTube stars as the crucial actors of the populist era,” Ross Douthat writes. Studies show, however, that because educated liberals themselves spend more time on the internet, they assume, mistakenly, that people who support populist positions are equally internet-influenced. Secondly, and more importantly, this view downgrades the obvious real-world forces driving populism’s appeal.

  • Perspective: ExtremismIt’s Not Only Jeremy Corbyn’s Mob that Welcomes Anti-Semites. It’s the Whole Bourgeois Left

    “On a scale of one to 10, how much would it surprise you that the Labour Party’s new poster boy, the young activist featured prominently in its election campaign material, is a semi-literate anti-Semite?” Rod Liddle asks in The Times. “I think, if you’ve been watching carefully these past few years, the score is probably around the two to three area.”

  • Perspective: ExtremismNazi Symbols and Racist Memes: Combating School Intolerance

    The number of Americans between the ages of 15 and 21 who saw extremist content online jumped by about 20 percent, to 70.2 percent from 58.3 percent, between 2013 and 2016, according to a new study. As more such material spills from the web to young people and into classrooms nationwide, educators increasingly find themselves under pressure to combat this new front of hate. Many educators say they feel ill-equipped to recognize what students absorb from the web, much less to address it.

  • Perspective: Conspiracy theoryEarthquake Conspiracy Theorists Are Wreaking Havoc During Emergencies

    Scientists have been trying hard to be able to predict earthquakes, because accurately predicting an earthquake would save lives, decrease property damage, and allow people to have some measure of control over one of nature’s most frightening and unpredictable events. Scientific predictions of the location and time of specific tremors are modest in scope – which have created an opening for earthquake conspiracy theorists who “claim that they have discovered the key to accurate quake prediction, as well as the hidden secrets behind why these tremors happen,” Anna Merlan writes.

  • ExtremismWhite Supremacists Embrace "Accelerationism"

    Accelerationism is a term white supremacists have assigned to their desire to hasten the collapse of society as we know it. The term is widely used by those on the fringes of the movement, who employ it openly and enthusiastically on mainstream platforms, as well as in the shadows of private, encrypted chat rooms.