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  • 00:06

    [Alfred Hermida Discusses Social Networks & Misinformation]

  • 00:10

    SPEAKER 1: I'm Alfred Hermida, I'man associate professor and Directorof the School of Journalism at the University of British.Columbia.So what I'd like to look at is the concernsthere are around campaigns of misinformationand disinformation, particularly circulating onlineand through social media, and thenthe response that's come from news organizations

  • 00:30

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: to tackle this phenomenon.Collectively, we've been talking around itas fake news, which is this catch all termto cover, really, the intentionality of spreadingmisinformation and weaponizing information to sow confusionor to undermine institutions such as the pressand the media.Because fake news is not a new phenomenon.

  • 00:52

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: It's not a social media phenomenon,it's not a Trump phenomenon, but thereare factors in what's happened nowthrough the propagation of disinformationonline through social media, and understandinghow these platforms work to use their affordances to spreadthis kind of propaganda.I think what's interesting with this is the approach that

  • 01:14

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: has come from institutions such as journalism organizations isto say, well, if there is fake newsor disinformation out there, we can counter thatthrough fact checking, through revealing what isn't trueand proving the facts and in some ways trying to gettowards this idea of truth--what is truthful, what isn't truthful-- whichis obviously an ideal that you can never quite get to.

  • 01:37

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: The challenge, really, when you'retackling the spread of fake news,particularly through social networks,is we don't then understand that people don't spreadfake news necessarily because they believeit or they think it's true.There are other factors that come into playwhen we look at the circulation of fake news.And we can look at studies in psychology and in other fields

  • 01:60

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: to really understand that the problem isn't that people can'tget facts, so providing more facts or saying,this piece of information is false,is not going to work in tackling fake news.One of the dimensions of social networksis that very much they are an expression of identity.When people interact, communicate, connect,

  • 02:22

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: what they're doing is projecting their self onto the network.So when it comes to relating to news and information,decisions are being made largely in terms of the selfand how this is an expression of self identity.We do this all the time in the clothing we wear.So this will come through in that the information we shareis partly a reflection of who we are

  • 02:44

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and what do we want to be seen, a reflectionof what we care about, a reflectionof building social capital with our friends.So one of the things that studieshave shown pre-social media is that peoplewill share fake news, false information, if theythink it's entertaining.And they do that not because theywant to mislead their friends, but because they

  • 03:05

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: want to amuse and entertain their friends.So it's the oh, can you believe this?And the answer is, no of course I don't believe it,but it's very entertaining.So it's that believe it or not, and we'll circulate it.So suddenly if you respond to that by saying,oh, no you shouldn't do that.It's not factual, that misunderstandsthe motivation for that sharing in the first place.

  • 03:27

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So suddenly, the circulation of news and informationand social media operates on different norms,on different values, and it's very muchsaying, how does somebody's information behavior reflecttheir sense of self, who they are, who they're projecting,and the choices they are making through those selections,particularly through social.

  • 03:48

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: Well, people will look at something,and they will evaluate it in termsof their lived experience.[lived experience]So if we have in the US, say, Obamatalking about unemployment's at a record low,well at a national stage, that might be true.But if this is being received by somebodyin a distressed community where the industrial plants have shut

  • 04:12

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: down and they've been out of work for the last four years,that's not their lived experience.And so they're going to talk about it on social mediathrough the lens of their lived experience.So you suddenly have this evidencethat doesn't align with the lived experience.And I think this is where the real challenge in tacklingfake news through social comes in,because we're trying to combat fake news with evidence,

  • 04:35

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: but there's three other E's that arefar more prominent than social.There's that experience.[experience = how people relate to what they hear]How people relate to what they hear.There's emotion--[emotion = how they feel about what they hear]How they feel about what they hear.And then empathy--[empathy = how they connect to what they hear]How they connect to what they hear.So certainly, you can see why certain stories that are notnecessarily true or truthful would resonate,

  • 04:57

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: because they connect with the lived experience,they make people feel a certain way,and they can connect with the topic of that story.So certainly when you're combining experience, emotion,and empathy, evidence doesn't stand a chance.We try to pretend we are rational beings, but moreoften than not experience, empathy,and emotion will override evidence,

  • 05:19

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and suddenly we'll be sharing and liking and recommendingthings that are not necessarily true or they're not factual,but they have some resonance of truth to that individual.And they connect with them on an emotional or empathetic level.The label of fake news is used as a weapon

  • 05:40

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: against institutional trust.So one of the things we've seen happenis decline in trust in institutions.And again, this is not a Trump phenomenon.This was ongoing.In fact, the only institution that still does well with trustis universities and academics.Just about every other institution, government, media,

  • 06:01

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: business, they've seen an overall decline in trustglobally.So in that atmosphere of a decline of trust,if you have an actor like Donald Trump coming in and saying,these people have been lying to you all along, suddenlythat finds a receptive ground.So for an idea to spread, there hasto be a receptive audience for it.

  • 06:23

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: They have to be primed to receive it.It's a bit like a wildfire.If you drop a match into a forest where it's been raining,nothing happens.If there's been weeks of droughtsand somebody drops a match, suddenlywe have an amazing, large, very destructive wildfire.So it's the same situation.In the context of a distrust of institutions,

  • 06:45

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: you have then the term fake news, this lack of trust,being weaponized to say, the way youfeel about these institutions, your right.And that also again plays very well on social media,because when we're doing our interactions on social,we're looking for affirmation.We're looking for a reflection of ourselvesand an affirmation from our networks

  • 07:06

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: that we are bringing something of value,the sense of self-worth.So suddenly, this term fake news becomes--I knew there was something dodgy about the New York Times.I thought there were an elite West Coast organization,and now it's true.So suddenly, of course you will believe it, because partlyyou want to believe it, but it also

  • 07:28

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: responds to that decline in trust in institutions.Social scientists can really contributeto our understanding of this thing we call fake news.But first of all, let's stop using the term fake news.It's not a new phenomenon-- fake information is alwayscirculated--and really break it down in termsof what is misinformation, which is when somebody

  • 07:49

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: is maybe an ounce of truth but not quite,the real picture has been skewed in some way or another,disinformation to deliberate campaigns, or another termthat's being used is the idea of truth decay, howan idea or a particular fact gets challenged and evolvesand turns into something else over time,particularly through social interaction.

  • 08:12

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So there's various ways we can understand this.Part of it is borrowing from studies in psychologyto understand how people connect with informationthrough the medium of social media, whichis very different to the way they would have done itthrough institutional media.There's much more of the personality and the selfthat gets reflected in these media and information

  • 08:32

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: behaviors.We can start understanding, break down exactly what do wemean by disinformation?What are the mechanisms that are being used for this?We can start understanding some of the tools and technologies.We can think of developing an almost fast response,so that rather than having a study that

  • 08:53

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: is done and a year later gets published,we can sort of develop methods or approaches thatcan start to spot and identify some of this to say,we've seen this happening.This is, say, a piece of informationthat's been spread by automated bots to tryto give the impression of a groundswell of opinionthrough social media on Twitter or elsewhere.

  • 09:14

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So there's various ways you can make meaningful interventions.But part of that is to really break down this termcalled fake news into different elements,and it's also understanding the context in which we'reoperating, the logic of media in social media, the logic of newsand information flow is there, and the motivationsthat people might have for repeating something that

  • 09:37

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: is clearly not true but somehow resonateswith that audience, that makes them want to believe itor want their friends to believe it.So as soon as we start unpacking that and understandingthese motivations, understanding the context,and think in terms of how we can make really rapid, meaningfulinterventions, I think there's a big contribution thereto social scientists across a range of disciplines.

  • 09:60

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: Social sciences are defined by disciplines,but actually the world is defined by problems.So this is a problem that doesn't neatlyfit into any one discipline.You really would need to draw from computer science,from data science, from psychology, from journalism,

  • 10:21

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: from communication, from different fields.So in some ways, it's not a case of whatare the skills one social scientist needs,but what is the team we would liketo assemble with different elementshere to understand this?History, you know, their story--there are professors who specialize

  • 10:42

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: in the history of media that can pointto how fake news circulated in previous timesand what can we learn from efforts made to combatfake news in the '30s or earlier on that would actuallyhelp us understand how to address it today?So it's less there's a set of specific skillsone person should acquire but rather a team that

  • 11:04

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: brings together expertise from different disciplines thatcontributes to an understanding and a way of counteringthis phenomenon with fake news.

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd

Publication Year: 2019

Video Type:Interview

Methods: Social network research, Social media research, Computational social science

Keywords: affirmation; disinformation; emotion; empathy; entertainments; evidence synthesis; experience (events); identity and self; institutions; motivation; processing the news; Social media; Social networking; Social networks; social science; trust and credibility ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Alfred Hermida, PhD, Associate Professor and Director of the School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia, discusses the spread of misinformation and disinformation on social media, with respect to self identity; experience, emotion, and empathy; institutional distrust; motivation; and approaches for intervention.

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Alfred Hermida Discusses Social Networks and Misinformation

Alfred Hermida, PhD, Associate Professor and Director of the School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia, discusses the spread of misinformation and disinformation on social media, with respect to self identity; experience, emotion, and empathy; institutional distrust; motivation; and approaches for intervention.

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