Facebook, Twitter, Rene Duress discussed on WNYC Programming


Research manager Rene to rest and noted in the aftermath, many of those posting and re posting had forgotten the Maxim Hanlon's razor, which states that one should never attribute to malice. That which is adequately explained by incompetence. Now as the general election rolls in on the tide of both malice and incompetence to rest worries that the social media citizenry is in for yet another election nightmare of our own making. Rene. Welcome to on the media. Thanks for having me. As an expert in Russia's 2016 social media sabotage. Computational propaganda. I think it's called these days. You know about the explosive mixture of social media algorithms, foreign actors and gullible or hyperpartisan domestic spreaders of lies. So what is your most frightful 2020 election Chaos scenario. The flood his own threat, right? The deluge. Too many misleading videos. Wild claims viral trends for anyone to know what's really, I think a lot of that is actually going to come out of legitimate domestic folks, You know, blue check influencers large media accounts. Foreign trolls are possibly going to be in there, but ultimately it's gonna be a lot of legitimate voices. Just asking questions or flooding the zone with kind of wild claims, making it very hard for people to know what's really blue Check influencers verified accounts where the speaker is presumed not to be passing along. Bad dope. Yeah, exactly. I mean, there's a sense of trust. When you see these blue checked accounts, there's a sense that this is somebody who's been verified. And even though technically that verification on Lee means that you know Twitter's confirmed that you are the person you say you are That's kind of come, Teo having additional degree of clout, right people see it is someone who knows what they're talking about. This hand lands razor thing in Your New York Times piece. This week, you talked about that phenomenon popping up in 2016 over malfunctioning. Voting machines, which was inflated into what You know any election some electronic voting machines somewhere, there's gonna be some miss calibration and the touch screens going to go haywire in 2016 people had taken a video of them trying to tap on the screen for President Trump. And they kept highlighting Secretary Clinton. Instead, the Internet research agency, the Russian shop that did all the mistress, all right, They had these troll accounts amplifying all of these videos, laying the groundwork to say that Secretary Clinton's team or people or, you know the cabal had packed the machines so that they were going to defer votes away from President Trump. Even the blue checks themselves are not inoculation against bad information, blue texture or human too, You know of situation happens, people are trying to figure out what actually occurred even if there's videos It's still becomes kind of a Rorschach test rate of what do you see in that video? Nobody is going to sit down. Sit back, wait for the full story to reveal itself. That's not what we do in the age of the immediate People are going to be trying to get their commentary out there as quickly as possible, particularly on platforms like Twitter than things. We're going to hop to Facebook and go viral there as well, a narrative spread today. Now I won't go back to Iowa because the misinformation spring mainly from the political left magical thinking and bespoke reality and roar Jack tests And the psychology of glomming onto anything that validates your own worldview is not limited to all right. Provocateurs or, you know Megatron thumpers. It reminds me Of the now debunked stolen mailbox graveyard story that was spread by progressives looking for smoking guns of U. S. Postal Service Votes oppression right then. That's another example. Where, you know, there's a A photograph. Maybe there's a caption that somewhat misleading or even one of the things that we see is old stories that kind of like rise up out of the graveyard. They're kind of given new life, but it is very much a bipartisan problem because it's not a political issue is just a human psychology issue. It's Ah, This is a story that confirms my biases, my inclination that those other people over there the worst people ever and here's Ah Me more a photograph or a snippet of video that confirms that we have witnessed years of lip service amid inaction and sometimes obstruction by Facebook, especially And Twitter. You as a researcher have to work with these platforms to get access to your raw data. First of all, are you getting what you need from them? Are they genuinely trying to protect societies worldwide from menace? What do you think that they're corrective steps or just window dressing to keep their profit engines running full bore? Yes, they are doing a lot more cooperation now than there was in 2016 2016. There was really nothing. And 2017. It was a bit kind of hostile is we were all kind of Pleading for the release of data. Now we're more at a point where there are teams of researchers that will work alongside the platform. So, for example, last week, Facebook announced to take down of three different operations. One in Pakistan won the Internet research agency targeting the U. S. And then the third was an interesting case. It was a U. S public relations firm operating in Bolivia and Venezuela. Facebook's integrity teams identified those operations and, interestingly, the Internet research agency. One came from a tip from the FBI. So that's an example of government working alongside platforms in that particular case. We take down that Facebook does the data center then made available to certain researchers in advance. My team at Stanford looked at the Olivia one and at the Pakistan won and we communicate back to them. You know, if we see something where we say, Hey, I think that you may be missed these accounts or hey, These accounts are included, but we don't understand why Maybe you want to double check that we do this with Twitter as well. That collaborative process allows us to have a better understanding of what's happening. And also, then we put out our independent assessment to the public and will communicate with the media as well on what we're seeing and contextualized it with other operations that we've seen in the past media, government, independent researchers, sometimes civil society and platforms. Are all communicating about the information that they have in there, Seeing until now. I think I've asked you reasonable and fair questions. Permit me to ask you an unfair question. You've explained how misinformation thrives on our assumptions that are foes are capable of the worst possible things. Now what if what if, on Election day and thereafter what if the foes of enfranchisement and liberal democracy Are doing the worst possible things. What if your social media nightmares come true in part because our In real life nightmares due to Yeah. Ultimately, What we are trying to do is not only debunk social media rumors, it's to ensure that what is actually happening. Is not covered up in that deluge of nonsense, right? You do want to clear the deluge that people have an understanding of what actually happened in the world. I think that's ultimately the goal. It's not to just be fact checkers and debunkers. It's to identify if manipulation is occurring. It's to ensure that those whose job it is to investigate, it are able to do that job as effectively as possible without being bogged down with misleading leads. One example that I'll point to historically of social media being used to cover up Riel atrocities. There's two cases. The first is MH 17. When the Malaysian Airlines jet was shot down the social media manipulation angle was a cover up to distract from culpability and to try to derail both. You know the public sentiment and also the appetite for investigations into what had actually happened there. And then the second would be the murder of Jamal Kashiwagi again, where you see an increasing number of accounts just tried to flood the zone with alternative explanations for what occurred to derail the actual process of investigating what had happened. You want that investigation to happen, And you also want people to trust the results of the investigation. If people have been fed a whole pile of misleading stories, the truth is going to seem like just one more among them. That's the real downside to flooding the zone. It makes the truth. Just one more story, Rene Thank you so much. Thank you. It's great to chat with you. Rene Duress..

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