It’s unbelievable how many people in the 21st century believe lies and, worse, collaborate to spread them. In internet times, fake news has gained a foreign language term to designate something that has existed since the world is world but has now gained an untold proportion: Fake News. So every day became April Fool’s Day, not just April 1st. But what leads so many people to believe and spread untruths, especially through social networks?
First, and perhaps the most decisive factor, is the dynamics of one only believing and spreading what one would like to be true, or reinforcing one’s beliefs. Notice: No one shares information that she disagrees with or belies information she thought was true. On the contrary, it deletes. Spreading what she imagines to be “the truth” serves to reinforce her personal beliefs, even if they have no correspondence with the real world, likelihood, the laws of cause and effect.
Second, the ease of disseminating this (false) information. Sharing is at your fingertips, anywhere, anytime, in your comfort zone. The Italian philosopher Umberto Eco, who throughout his life developed a consistent work of studying human communication but became more famous for being the author of the book “The Name of the Rose”, summed up the gravity of the situation: “Social media gave the the right to speak to legions of imbeciles who previously spoke only at the bar after a glass of wine without harming the community. They were immediately told to shut up, while now they have the same right to speech as a Nobel Prize winner, ”he said in a lecture at the University of Turin in 2015, a year before his death. Eco added that the TV had already set the “village idiot” to a level where he felt superior. “The Internet drama is that she promoted the village idiot to bear the truth,” he added.
A research by the Lupa Agency (a specialist in data checking) shows the extent of the damage: In the first two months leading up to last year’s first round of election, the top ten most popular fake news from the internet together were shared around 865 thousand on Facebook. The champion lie was that Councilwoman Marielle Franco (murdered in Rio de Janeiro) would be a trafficker’s girlfriend (360,000 shares).
A third important factor is the trust the person has in who sent the message. A friend, relative, co-worker … A survey conducted by the University of São Paulo (USP) Political Debate Monitor on the Digital, on the spread of a Fake News, revealed that 51% of people received the lie in WhatsApp family groups; 32% in groups of friends; 9% in groups of coworkers and 9% in groups or direct messages.
This is how nonsense is publicized as what vaccine would cause autism; nurseries would be distributing penis-shaped baby bottles; planet earth is flat …
In addition to those close to you, there is also a decisive influence on websites and blogs that promote ideals that the person also advocates. By presenting themselves as “serious” media, they end up conveying alleged credibility. In this deceiving process, they use names apparently above any suspicion: “Diário do Brasil”, “Correio do Poder”, “Jornal do País” and “Imprensa Viva” are some of the sites proven to be spreading fake news, which had content removed by court decision or have been completely disabled.
Recent technological advances have increased the reach of messages, both true content and (and especially) Fake News. First, because of the refinement of so-called social networking algorithms like Facebook: programs collect and analyze data from the Internet user and “select” the messages that have the most affinity with him – the assumption of showing “more interesting” information. Thus, end up appearing on the screen of the person, posts that reinforce their beliefs. For example, on a stock marketer’s Facebook page there will be many more anti-PT posts, against the left, against disarmament etc.
Another determining aspect is the action of robots (so-called “bots”): programs that create fake profiles (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts of people who don’t exist) and share fake information at breakneck pace. Data security analysts from several countries are unanimous in stating that bots spreading false information were decisive in voting for Brexit, the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States and that of Jair Bolsonaro President of Brazil.
A survey by Veja magazine on the eve of the first round of the presidential election showed that 71% of Brazil’s most active Twitter accounts were massively campaigning for Bolsonaro. Soon after the elections, these profiles were deactivated. According to the InternetLab Institute, about 33 percent of Bolsonaro’s Twitter followers during last year’s contest were fake and 70 percent of posts with positive messages to the then candidate were triggered by robots.
The existence of robots has been proven on several occasions. The most striking was the case of an article in the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo entitled “Jewelery wants to compete with works of art for the pocket of the super rich.” The robots interpreted the word “pocket” as referring to the candidate and published a flurry of attacks: “where’s the evidence @ leaf? There is not right? Because they don’t exist! The report dealt with the jewelry market and the robots at the service of the Bolsonaro campaign considered it to be a story about … the use of bots in the election!
Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign is also suspected to have used WhatsApp’s mass message firing. The estimate is the so-called booster has sent about 120 million messages at the height of the election race. The prosecutor’s office and the Federal Police opened proceedings to investigate the case, but investigations were suspended with the election of Bolsonaro.
Fake News Vaccine
Journalist Rafael Mota has designed a free online course that guides how people can “get vaccinated” against fake news. Classes are available on their website. Below, he lists five tips to help anyone recognize and avoid sharing “Fake News”:
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