The internet has enabled a crisis of public misinformation. Anyone can say anything, and fake news is just a part of our everyday lives now. It shouldn't be like this. So why is it?
According to a new global report from Elsevier conducted with Economist Impact, scientists and researchers are concerned about the rise of misinformation throughout the pandemic. They've observed a growing responsibility they have in fighting false info spread on social media. In fact, they believe the data shows that the public's understanding of scientific research actually deteriorated during COVID – despite people being more curious and seeking out information.
"Something very apparent in our study with Economist Impact was that in addition to their regular research activities, researchers now also work increasingly to combat false and misleading information as well as online abuse, and they want support to do so," said Ann Gabriel, an executive at Elsevier.
Researchers and scientists aren't the only ones who are worried. Pew Research Center published a study this past summer on the experiences of American journalists when it comes to misinformation online. Based on that survey, "More than nine-in-ten journalists surveyed (94%) say made-up news and information is a significant problem in America today, with 71% identifying it as a very big problem and 23% seeing it as a moderately big problem; 6% say it is a small problem or not a problem at all."
Because social media plays such a huge role in spreading news and info, the changes going on with Twitter have caused new issues already. Since the takeover, scandals have cropped up on the platform (including a major increase in hate speech, Musk himself posting a since-deleted conspiracy theory, banning parody accounts en masse…). With this mess, experts in disinformation fear a flood of lies coming through Twitter. Some argue that Musk's promise to cut down on content moderation but then enforce cherry-picked profile censorship looks … well, bad.
"Musk claims he wants an open debate, but he bullies activists and politicians who disagree with him," said Erika Seiber, a spokesperson from the environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth. "Governments and advertisers must hold him accountable and prevent him from creating an explosion of hate speech, extremist conspiracies and climate disinformation."
So, don't believe everything you read on the internet, folks.