Avid social media users have access to false information at their fingertips. That information can be found on sites like Facebook and Twitter. But sometimes it can be even more dangerous. We asked three experts for their thoughts on the spread of conspiracy theories.
Real Russian trolls now calling the shots in the Trump White House
President Donald Trump is far from immune to controversial political messages spread through social media. But the shape of some of those messages have been completely different than before.
Kade Crockford, an expert on the manipulation of public sentiment and issues, says Trump’s right-hand men are now able to influence the president without ever leaving Trump Tower. “The President is surrounded by former and current officials who are Russian operatives,” Crockford said.
Trump-Russia collusion has been debunked, but some people still believe it is real.
Anne Weismann, a Professor of Journalism at Colgate University, says the larger question is what types of information are being used to convince people to accept those conspiracy theories. “A lot of it comes from conspiracy theory websites or groups that might themselves be conspiracies in some way,” Weismann said.
Internet activist group, Anonymous, is exposing people who talk about conspiracy theories.
The activist group Anonymous offers a national list of people who troll on social media. Then Anonymous posts those names online, encouraging anyone who wishes to expose those individuals to do so. Some have been successfully outed. The report on one person published by Anonymous included this warning: “Since this person is trying to hide his identity, we advise you to document everything that he said or did. Do not go around these people to rescue them, just document everything they do or say to make it difficult for them to hide.”
Fake news sites like InfoWars and Infowars are now being investigated by the Department of Justice.
Information security expert Matt Blaze says the reach of InfoWars and Infowars is limited because both sites are more ideological than they are factual. Blaze, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is conducting research to see how often people believe fake news sites.
“The search terms on our platform are limiting, but that means those messages are spreading through those search terms,” Blaze said. “If you’re a contrarian, someone who thinks that the world is much more complex than most people realize it is, if you’re more willing to believe it’s just a crock of horse shit, you’re going to read these sites and you’re going to have a higher confidence of believing it’s true.”