Study reveals new way to combat disinformation on social media

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AT a time where social media platforms have evolved into battlegrounds for information integrity, a recent study has identified the mechanisms for disinformation and provided countermeasures to curb it.

Researchers from Brandeis University, George Mason University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted an investigation into the dynamics of “disinformation wars,” a term used to describe the deliberate dissemination of false information on social media platforms such as X (formerly known as Twitter). This technique has shown to be alarmingly successful in deceiving the public.

“Our findings reveal a disturbing trend of entities engaging in disinformation wars, using the anonymity and reach of social media to influence political and social narratives,” said Maryam Saeedi, the study co-author and Assistant Professor of Economics at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.

“This manipulation is not only a direct threat to democratic processes but also to the general public’s ability to discern truth from fiction,” Saeedi added.

The study highlights the need to combat disinformation promptly and sheds light on the cunning strategies some regimes and organisations use to sway public opinion.

The study presents a novel preventive technique called ex-ante content moderation,” which entails giving accounts a disinformation score determined by how likely they are to disseminate misleading information. The goal of this strategy is to proactively detect and lessen the effects of misinformation before a large audience is exposed to it.

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Through a case study on the disinformation operations during the protests in Iran following Mahsa Amini’s death in September 2022, they assessed the effectiveness of the technique. The study provides a thorough understanding of how misinformation can be systematically found and refuted, through account classification and analysis of a special Farsi-language dataset spanning from September 2019 to March 2023.

Saeedi emphasizes the significance of this research given the state of world politics at the moment.

She noted that the preservation of democratic ideals and the defence of human rights depend heavily on the ability to recognise and combat disinformation campaigns, given the critical role that digital platforms continue to play in influencing public debate.

The results of this study have significant ramifications for social media companies, legislators, and the broader public. In order to develop and improve content moderation techniques that can successfully stop the spread of false information, the researchers urge cooperation between tech firms, governments, and civil society.

According to Saeedi, this report is a call to action. It emphasizes how important it is to take proactive, creative steps to protect our information ecology from people attempting to destroy it through misinformation campaigns.

The techniques described in the study also offer a basis for future attempts to guarantee the veracity and authenticity of information in the digital era, given the rapid evolution of disinformation.

Fact-checker at The FactheckHub | [email protected] | + posts

Seasoned fact-checker and researcher Fatimah Quadri has written numerous fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy pieces for The FactCheckHub in an effort to combat information disorder. She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected].

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