The research institute Data&Society, based in New York City, has recently published a report on Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online. The report, written by Alice Marwick and Rebecca Lewis, highlights how organised groups can take advantage of social media’s affordances (such as networking and sharing, participatory culture, but also bots) in order to spread fake news, alter the public debate and manipulate the media agenda.
Examples of such groups are very heterogeneous: Internet trolls, gamergaters, hate groups, far-rightists, conspiracy theorists, but also influencers, media outlets and political actors at large.
From the executive summary of the report:
Internet subcultures take advantage of the current media ecosystem to manipulate news frames, set agendas, and propagate ideas.
Far-right groups have developed techniques of “attention hacking” to increase the visibility of their ideas through the strategic use of socialmedia, memes, and bots—as well as by targeting journalists, bloggers, and influencers to help spread content.
The media’s dependence on social media, analytics and metrics, sensationalism, novelty over newsworthiness, and clickbait makes them vulnerable to such media manipulation.
While trolls, white nationalists, men’s rights activists, gamergaters, the “alt-right,” and conspiracy theorists may diverge deeply in their beliefs, they share tactics and converge on common issues.
The far-right exploits young men’s rebellion and dislike of “political correctness” to spread white supremacist thought, Islamophobia, and misogyny through irony and knowledge of internet culture.Media manipulation may contribute to decreased trust of mainstream media, increased misinformation, and further radicalization.