Is Fake News & Viral Social Media Subverting Democracy In The UK?

blessmycottonsocks

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Reports seem to be escalating in UK mainstream media (just been discussed on the BBC 10:00 news) about the significant effect that fake news/rumours/misinformation spread via Facebook, Twitter and other uncontrolled social media, has on recent UK elections.

The EU referendum, Labour leadership campaign and the 2017 general election, all of which confounded the political pollsters, have been cited as examples where propaganda spread via social media has had a demonstrably stronger effect than mainstream news.

https://www.theguardian.com/technol...ry-data-misuse-deomcracy-at-risk-mps-conclude

https://gijn.org/2017/10/31/is-social-media-a-threat-to-democracy/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-40209711

There seems little doubt that the Leave campaign exploited social media far more effectively than Remain, just as Momentum did for Corbyn.

Do you see social media being used in this manner as a threat to democracy and, if so, should users on Facebook and Twitter etc. be denied their current anonymity and be subject to similar controls as articles published or broadcast on the mainstream media?
 

James_H

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Short answer: yes, social media manipulation and disinformation propaganda (buzzword du jour: 'fake news') were used.

Take a look at Cambridge Analytica, the rather sinister data analysis company with a right-wing agenda to push. They "'absolutely' planted fake news'", in addition to their data harvesting and strategic role, according to this former employee. They were also, of course, involved Donald Trump's election campaign, which, although it may have been entirely above-board—who's to say right now?—currently appears to be generating more smoke than a bonfire made of truck tyres. In fact, Cambridge Analytica claim to have been involved in over 200 elections worldwide. In private meetings with an undercover journalist, the CEO of CA has offered to use prostitutes to entrap rival politicians, so it's not all egghead computer boffin stuff.

(Please note that there is a parallel between the kind of data-gathering and crunching done by CA and that done by other marketing companies previously; the difference apparently being that CA used facebook and that the quality of their data was somehow spectacularly accurate in its predictive power. See this Jon Ronson article from 2005 about the targeted marketing of credit cards.)

***

In other news, Steve Bannon plans to stick his oar in to help break up the rest of the EU. Thanks a bunch, Steve!

Bannon, a former chairman of the right-wing Breitbart.com website and an architect of Trump’s 2016 election win, has launched a project to coordinate and bolster the anti-EU vote across the European Union.

He held a series of meetings in London this month after launching a Brussels-based political organization he says is intended to undermine, and ultimately paralyse, the EU.
 

melon24

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You know what? IMHO, ALL media, whether social media or msm, has always had an underlying motive / not-so-hidden agenda and all that newer technology does is just to disseminate this faster. In the days when Fleet Street ruled, you really couldn't be off from noticing the different slants each newspaper had on events and their (not so) subtle attempts to subvert peoples opinions. They were /are not called the Fourth Estate for nothing. This flurry of indignation about so-called fake news, is just because certain sections of society are upset that they no longer have the influence they used to have through the msm and frankly are a bit scared of losing that control, so are now attempting to subvert the views of people towards social media by calling what it propogates fake.
 

James_H

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Social media giants must be responsible for content to halt democratic 'crisis' caused by fake news, UK MPs say
From The Independent

A leaked parliamentary report condemned tech firms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, for acting “irresponsibly” over data collection and called for new laws to make them accountable for the content on their sites.

Cross-party MPs warned over the “relentless targeting of hyper-partisan views, which play to the fears and prejudices of people, in order to influence their voting plans and their behaviour” and called for tougher electoral laws to combat interference.
There is an interesting change in attitudes about website proprietors. Back in the dark ages of the internet, webmasters were seen to be accountable for the content on their sites. Now content is user-generated, this seems to have been reversed. Advertising-driven businesses like Facebook and Google also really don't care about the ideological content offered on their platforms so long as it provides revenue (notwithstanding PR disasters)
 

blessmycottonsocks

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You know what? IMHO, ALL media, whether social media or msm, has always had an underlying motive / not-so-hidden agenda and all that newer technology does is just to disseminate this faster. In the days when Fleet Street ruled, you really couldn't be off from noticing the different slants each newspaper had on events and their (not so) subtle attempts to subvert peoples opinions. They were /are not called the Fourth Estate for nothing. This flurry of indignation about so-called fake news, is just because certain sections of society are upset that they no longer have the influence they used to have through the msm and frankly are a bit scared of losing that control, so are now attempting to subvert the views of people towards social media by calling what it propogates fake.
But the difference of course is that, if the BBC, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail etc. broadcast or publish fake news, they are likely to get their socks sued off.
On Facebook, Twitter and such like, anyone can say anything, no matter how libellous or damaging to an individual or political party's reputation.
 

James_H

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But the difference of course is that, if the BBC, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail etc. broadcast or publish fake news, they are likely to get their socks sued off.
But as we've seen with the likes of The Sun, often all they'll do is print a tiny apology somewhere towards the back.

As to whether The Sun subverts democracy in the UK...
 

blessmycottonsocks

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But as we've seen with the likes of The Sun, often all they'll do is print a tiny apology somewhere towards the back.

As to whether The Sun subverts democracy in the UK...
But the Sun's circulation is plummeting. It's halved since 2010 and is a tiny fraction of the Facebook and Twitter users.
Traditional media influence is waning rapidly and has been replaced by a largely unregulated social media, where anything goes.
 

melon24

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As to whether The Sun subverts democracy in the UK...
When news re-inforces what we already believe, or where we are wavering, any 'fake' or biased news, whether social or ms media, can subvert democracy in that it can make up your mind one way or another.

I agree that the msm is more open to legal proceedings, but only when they are caught out.....usually much later on, if at all. But I stand by my opinion that msm has had free reign in the biased news stakes for so long that social media can be seen as a reaction against the msm, which is trying to find ways to keep its version relevant by attacking social media as a whole as a BAD IDEA, full of fakery.
 

Mythopoeika

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James_H

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His apparent ambivalence to Holocaust denial and anti-semitism being spread via Facebook is pretty weird.
I read a novel called I Hate The Internet a little while back which goes into this in some detail. The narrator rejects facebook etc as media for (left wing) speech, because whatever radical thing you may be saying, ultimately in using that platform you are just making money for capitalists and perpetuating that system. The same goes for fascism.
 

sherbetbizarre

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I can't understand it. He is jewish himself, I think.
From the Guardian article:
The most revealing part of the Swisher interview, however, concerned Holocaust denial, a topic that Zuckerberg himself brought up. “I’m Jewish,” he said, “and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong, but I think it’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent.”
 

Cochise

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Mythopoeika

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They are opinions. They are reprehensible opinions, but generally the best way to guarantee that reprehensible opinions spread is to ban them.
A lot of banning/censoring/suppressing does seem to be happening right now. And yes, it's only going to cause those ideas and opinions to spread. Or maybe that's what 'they' want?
 

Cochise

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A lot of banning/censoring/suppressing does seem to be happening right now. And yes, it's only going to cause those ideas and opinions to spread. Or maybe that's what 'they' want?
Well, we are in conspiracy. I do wonder if 'they' are trying to provoke civil unrest for their own purposes.
 

Peripart

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From the Guardian article:
The most revealing part of the Swisher interview, however, concerned Holocaust denial, a topic that Zuckerberg himself brought up. “I’m Jewish,” he said, “and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong, but I think it’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent.”
I think I see where Zuckerberg is coming from, especially after Facebook have come under so much fire recently. He may disagree with some unpleasant views, but the last thing we want is Facebook is sitting in moral judgement over its members.

And as Cochise and Myth have said, banning something seems to make it seem edgy and cool, and instantly more desirable. As long as someone's not breaking the law, let them say offensive things, but also let others challenge those views, and have them wither away under the force of the argument.
 

Hogarth999

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The main problem seems to be targeted media, such as those obnoxious Facebook ads used by the Leave campaign in the 2016 EU Referendum. Here they are in a PDF document on the government's web site:

https://www.parliament.uk/documents...upplied-by-Facebook-to-the-DCMS-Committee.pdf

These were deliberately targeted at specific groups of people, therefore most of us may not even have seen them.

Did they have an effect? Would it have been enough to swing the referendum vote? Yes and Yes.

Given the narrow win for Leave, this alone should render the referendum result null and void.
 

Cavynaut

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Seems to me that the only thing remotely "democratic" about our present system is that each vote carries the same weight.

Whichever form of media the voter takes his or her information from doesn't change that simple fact. It should be up to the individual to make a decision based on facts. But if they can't ( or won't ) then it's hardly surprising that someone will offer to do it for them.

Interesting thread :)
 

Spookdaddy

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The subject of this thread is interesting.

We've managed to avoid reductio as Islam for an unfeasibly large number of posts, so it would be a shame if it got shut down for resuscitating the Brexit leviathan instead.

(Edit: Yes, I know it's relevant - but it's still very probably going to get the thread shot. Because we all know exactly where it's going to go.)
 
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Naughty_Felid

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The majority for Leave was 7.9% (51.9% vs. 48.1%). That is not a “narrow win”. Especially when you consider the relentless BBC “Remain” propaganda and the Cameron government spending £9,000,000 on a pro-Remain leaflet sent to every household in the UK.

More people voted to escape from the clutches of the EU than have ever voted for anything else in UK political history.

maximus otter
Not nearly as fake as the leaflet the Government sent to everyone. 'The result of the referendum will be put in to effect immediately'.

Government has been consistently lying about the aims and purpose of the EU since Heath took us in (without a vote). Remainers totally underestimate the anger of a populous that has been duped for 40+ years - the young people don't know precisely because they are young.

Another thread turned into a pro-Brexit sermon again and we wonder why people are leaving this place and we even get slagged off on another forum.

We are consistently asked not to make this place political but the same offenders post their usual right wing bollocks every opportunity they get.

Tiresome shite on an increasingly tiresome rightwing site.
 
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blessmycottonsocks

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"would be a shame if it got shutdown for resuscitating the Brexit leviathon [sic] instead."

Agreed. So let's stick to the main theme of whether fake news spread via social media is subverting democracy.
Without getting into the rights and wrongs of Brexit, there is a valid point here, as the perception, thanks mostly to social media commentary, seems to be that the Leave campaign spent far more money than Remain.
 

Cochise

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People are entitled to disagree with each other , and no-one is entitled to claim a particular set of views is right and anyone who disagrees is something nasty - far-right, alt-left, racist whatever. You are all fallible human beings as much as me , and any and all of us might be totally wrong.

(stu edit - reference to completely removed political posts removed.)
 
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blessmycottonsocks

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You want to leave politics be and then you immediately raise a political point! I don't see how you can discuss alleged 'fake news' - which is basically any news someone disagrees with, without getting deeply embroiled in politics. And when you have other people complaining about the right wingers on this site when in fact there are far more left wingers you realise political debate is dead anyway.

People are entitled to disagree with each other , and no-one is entitled to claim a particular set of views is right and anyone who disagrees is something nasty - far-right, alt-left, racist whatever. You are all fallible human beings as much as me , and any and all of us might be totally wrong.
We're all grown-ups here and should be perfectly capable of discussing whether propaganda on social media is compromising democracy, without promulgating any particular political viewpoint.

If fake news is a term too politically loaded, then shall we stick with the traditional term propaganda?
 

Cochise

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:) I think propaganda permeates all the media, and has always done. Democracy isn't a perfect system, it just happens to be the best we have. I don't think the internet has changed that, although I do think that education has changed in a way that doesn't encourage people to be analytical - we are turning out too many people who think with their feelings rather than common sense. The only evidence I have for that is the people I've interviewed and employed over the last 30 years or so.

Where I think the internet could compromise democracy is if we started to indulge in instant referenda. We do elect people to represent our views, and in many cases the subjects they are deciding on are too complex for a quick answer from those without the time to investigate the facts. However , to refer to the people on great constitutional issues which are issues of principle rather than 'how to' seems a sensible thing to do if indulged in very occasionally. The US could have a referendum on gun control, for example, provided adequate time was given for campaigning and discussion. (I'm deliberately avoiding discussing the obvious example).
 

blessmycottonsocks

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:) I think propaganda permeates all the media, and has always done. Democracy isn't a perfect system, it just happens to be the best we have. I don't think the internet has changed that, although I do think that education has changed in a way that doesn't encourage people to be analytical - we are turning out too many people who think with their feelings rather than common sense. The only evidence I have for that is the people I've interviewed and employed over the last 30 years or so.

Where I think the internet could compromise democracy is if we started to indulge in instant referenda. We do elect people to represent our views, and in many cases the subjects they are deciding on are too complex for a quick answer from those without the time to investigate the facts. However , to refer to the people on great constitutional issues which are issues of principle rather than 'how to' seems a sensible thing to do if indulged in very occasionally. The US could have a referendum on gun control, for example, provided adequate time was given for campaigning and discussion. (I'm deliberately avoiding discussing the obvious example).
Agreed.
 

kamalktk

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Boats for the wee folk? Fae canoes?
 
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