Letter to the editor: Don’t let misinformation go unnoticed on social media | Opinion

On June 10, 2021, I read an article written by a Bloomberg columnist, Faye Flam, in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. This was mirrored by Bluefield Daily Telegraph political columnist Smokey Shott on February 22, 2022. Both agreed that censorship on social media is unacceptable, especially when it comes to science relating to COVID.

Shott wrote of social media censorship: “Social media needs to stop playing God and let people speak out whether they are right, wrong or undetermined, as long as they don’t incite violence or other dangerous activities. Mr. Shott did not suggest how social media would prevent dangerous activity. Did he indicate in these cases that censorship was justified?

Faye Flam wrote: “Disinformation is dangerous…It is much better to provide additional information than to censor information. In other words, reshaping the “wrong” information with the right (factual) information.

Flam’s suggestion to provide more information is dangerously short. Former Facebook employee turned whistleblower Frances Haugen explained during her testimony before Congress last year that Facebook implemented algorithms to keep subscribers engaged on sites they had previously visited sites by sending them to similar sites to encourage continued use with a reckless disregard for security. To explain, if you frequented sites that were dangerous or laden with misinformation, you would continually be sent to these and similar sites and never see the correct information that Faye Flam suggests that legitimate sites should provide to thwart bad information.

According to an NPR report, Haugen testified, “The result has been more division, more evil, more lies, more threats, and more fighting. In some cases, these dangerous online discussions have led to real violence that hurts and even kills people. These practices have been particularly dangerous for teenagers, according to Haugen.

A BBC News article written by Rachel Schraer in January 2022 agrees that censorship is a bad idea. The article explains that preventing people from posting information can “exacerbate feelings of distrust”. He explains that users could be driven to darker corners of the internet where misinformation is harder to correct.

But the article offered some good suggestions. One idea promotes altering the algorithm so misinformation doesn’t go viral immediately. Slow down the speed at which information is delivered and make it harder to reach. Another idea from the article is fact-checking, fact-checking, fact-checking, then correcting the wrong information. Finally, remove influencers who spread dangerous or violent conspiracy theories. Are the last two suggestions censorship?

Shott doesn’t make any suggestions on how to improve social media, just let the bad news flow as long as it’s not dangerous. The problem is determining potentially dangerous misinformation. For example, no one really believed that Hillary Clinton was running a child pornography ring out of a pizzeria basement, even though this misinformation was circulating all over the internet. Except some poor misguided man went to said pizzeria that didn’t even have a gun basement to stop Clinton’s abuse. Luckily no one was hurt and the man was arrested without incident and hopefully deprogrammed from the “bad” social media.

Shott claimed Feb. 22 in the BDT that social media reports about COVID deemed false were correct. Really? How many people have died refusing to get vaccinated because of lies on social media? Examples – taking hydroxychloroquine prophylactically prevented catching COVID. Trump’s COVID infection refuted this “false” information. Or the government was hounding you with microchips in the vaccine. Flash news, your iPhone will suffice. Or taking the animal parasitic ivermectin for COVID was safe. People have died from it. Or once you had COVID you were immune indefinitely. Many have caught COVID more than once because antibodies wane over time. I could go on. In fact, vastly more unvaccinated died than vaccinated.

Shott wrote, “We expect newspapers and other news providers to ensure their content is correct…” If you examine the evidence uncovered by the January 6 Committee, you will find that Fox News practiced reverse censorship. . Hannity messaged the White House by Jan. 6, “very concerned for the next 48 hours.” Hannity conveyed to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, “I don’t see January 6 going the way it’s been told (to President Trump).” The committee revealed that Hannity and Ingram contacted the White House during the insurgency to ask someone to convince the president to stop the insurgency.

Yet when appearing on Fox, the two hosts censored what they knew (the facts) and instead lied saying the crowd was dotted with Antifa, or it was just a tour, or that nothing had happened, and again and again avoiding the facts and promoting misinformation. Sorry Shott, I view all news providers with a critical eye, especially Fox’s late night hosts who do not represent the news, only for entertainment value.

Censorship or not, democracy and our two-party system are extremely threatened by social media and the spreaders of fake news only interested in profit and not our country.

Don V. Hylton

Bluefield, Virginia.

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