Humanities Washington speaker Travis Ridout offers “Hacking Democracy: What Social Media is Doing to US Politics,” an online presentation, at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3.
Registration is required to receive the Zoom login; register at www.nols.org or by contacting a North Olympic Library System branch.
With Hacking Democracy,” Ridout — a political scientist — explores the pros and cons of social media in political campaigns.
“While social media use gives citizens access to a wealth of information, it also exposes them to messages that are carefully tailored and targeted in a highly sophisticated manner,” Ridout’s Humanities Washington presentation notes. “More ominously, social media can be used to psychologically manipulate voters in unprecedented ways, beyond the fact-checking and scrutiny of the news media spotlight. How real is this latter possibility as we head toward the 2020 presidential campaign? Learn how politicians — and foreign spies — are using social media and personal data to their advantage.”
Ridout is the Thomas S. Foley Distinguished Professor of Government and Public Policy at Washington State University. His research on political campaigns has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, British Journal of Political Science and in the Journal of Politics.
Ridout’s most recent book is political advertising in the United States.
One of Humanities Washington’s oldest and most popular programs, Speakers Bureau is designed to “spark conversation and critical thinking using story as a catalyst, nurturing thoughtful and engaged communities across the state.” For more about Speakers Bureau, visit www.humanities.org/programs/speakers.
78 seconds that will actually make you feel good about politics – CNN
U.S. election: How COVID-19 misinformation is being weaponized in politics – Global News
In a global pandemic, inaccurate information not only misleads but could also be a matter of life and death if people start taking unproven drugs, ignoring public health advice or refusing a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available.
“A very dangerous element of all of this misinformation is distrust in institutions, in media and in democracy,” said Luca Nicotra, a disinformation researcher with non-profit research and activism foundation Avaaz.
“And this has very clear effects, for instance on vaccination rates. We have already seen how Facebook and other social media have promoted the rise of the anti-vaccination movement all around the world.”
A study by his organization found that content from the top 10 websites spreading health misinformation had almost four times as many views on Facebook than websites providing evidence-based information, like public health institutions such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nicotra says this has a lot to do with Facebook’s business model.
“Facebook is not a neutral platform. So basically, every time a user logs in, its algorithm decides what you see from the thousands of posts of all the pages you like or the friends you have. It selects the one that it believes will keep you in the platform the most,” he said.
“And what Facebook knows, (CEO Mark) Zuckerberg himself has said that they know that its algorithm, if left unchecked, will promote in a user’s timeline, divisive, sensationalist content and disinformation.”
Despite all evidence, strong rhetoric downplaying the risks associated with COVID-19 has been endorsed at the highest levels of the U.S government.
According to a study by Cornell University, President Donald Trump has been the world’s biggest driver of COVID-19 misinformation during the pandemic.
A team from the Cornell Alliance for Science looked at 38 million articles published by English-language, traditional media worldwide between Jan. 1 and May 26 of this year.
Coronavirus: COVID-19 and the fear fueling conspiracy theories
And misinformation is increasingly moving offline and spilling over into the streets in the form of protests or sometimes aggressive refusals to follow social distancing restrictions.
In April, thousands of people gathered at Michigan’s state capitol to protest executive orders issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that shut down most of the state.
Trump openly encouraged such protests, tweeting, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”
A group of men known as the Wolverine Watchmen, said to have been motivated by Whitmer’s actions to limit the spread of COVID-19, have been arrested on conspiracy charges, accused of plotting to kidnap the Michigan governor.
Trump has admitted to downplaying the pandemic, continuing to do so even after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 — fuelling the growing coronavirus-denial movement.
“His success in responding or reacting personally to COVID that is now being fed into those conspiracies as well, that it proves that it’s a hoax, that it’s not nearly as serious as we went on it was,” said Barbara Perry, the director of Ontario Tech University’s Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism.
And with Facebook’s algorithm trying to keep people on its platform for as long as possible, it’s no surprise that what keeps people engaged are sensational posts often full of false information.
“So Facebook’s responsibility then comes from the inaction on not constraining the algorithm (from going into) these black holes,” Nicotra said. “That, really, in the best case, radicalizes people. In the worst case, during a global pandemic like the one we are in the middle of, really, it puts people’s lives in danger.”
Facebook has not responded to Global News’ request for comment but it has made an effort to label posts with warning notices about coronavirus misinformation — including posts by politicians.
But advocates say it’s not enough.
One idea set forth by Nicotra’s foundation is that when Facebook deems a post false or dangerous, it should not only add a warning on the initial post but also when someone shares it, sending them notifications that what they have shared is untrue.
There’s also a push to downgrade the algorithm, says Nicotra, so that when a post is verified false, its reach is automatically decreased.
And as we get closer and closer to the U.S. election and important COVID-19 regulations are debated, access to fact- and science-based information is more important now than ever.
After 30 years in politics, Carole James retires with a new pair of boxing gloves and no regrets – CBC.ca
Carole James is leaving the political ring with a few victories under her belt.
As leader of the B.C. NDP in the early 2000s, she helped it grow from only two seats in Victoria to more than 30 before John Horgan took on the role. Now, as outgoing finance minister, she is retiring in the wake of an orange wave after the party won a projected historic majority this fall.
James announced in March she had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and planned to focus on her family and her health.
She told CBC she has spent her last week on the job tripping down memory lane — both reflecting on her own experiences and the success of the party.
“It’s been really extraordinary,” she said.
Watch Carole James talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly in politics:
The long-serving MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill is leaving the legislature with a unique parting gift from her colleagues — a pair of purple boxing gloves.
Boxing, says James, is a great exercise for people with Parkinson’s and she plans to step out of her comfort zone and give it a go.
“Much to the surprise of my kids who I’m not sure really believe that I’m going to follow through with it,” she said.
But not following through doesn’t really come off as a trait of James, who led a party when she didn’t even have her own seat in the house and later, as finance minister, had the unprecedented responsibility of controlling B.C.’s budget during an economically-crippling global pandemic.
“I don’t tend to take on the easy things. I tend to take on the challenging pieces,” said James, adding it was drilled into her early in life to take responsibility and get involved.
Raised by a single mom in the very community she served as MLA, James said she spent much of her childhood at protests and at her grandparents’ home where, as foster parents, there were always kids that needed caring for.
“The expectation in my family was that you have to contribute, that it’s not a choice,” she said.
Watch the retiring MLA reflect on the things that matter most to her:
But now, James is choosing to spend more time on her health and with her two children and grandchildren and her husband, Albert Gerow, the former elected chief of the Burns Lake First Nation.
“I couldn’t do this job if it wasn’t for family and friends and that’s why I remind MLAs when the come in, politics will come and go, but your family and friends — you’ve got to make sure you hang on to those relationships,” said James.
She said she plans on working somewhat during her retirement and while she didn’t specify what she would be doing, she did say it would involve what she loves — problem solving and “bringing folks together across party lines.”
And when she does think back on her time working for British Columbians, it will be with fondness for her colleagues and her constituents.
“I don’t regret a minute.”
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