Social Media is Flawed as a Source of News
In connection to the recent United States election, the majority of people, including social media publishers fear that false news has slowly turned out to be a sinister and powerful force. The association between social media and false news is particularly salient when considering the political partisanship and identity elements that govern the majority of our engagements with these platforms such as Twitter and Facebook (Lee, 2019). Among the issues of social media applications being perceived as sources of news is their association with false news. As a content publisher in the field of social medial platforms, this paper explores the purpose of social media in influencing public opinion, while considering the frequency of fake news on such platforms. Social media news feeds play a huge role in shaping public opinion; unfortunately, social media platforms are prone to false news.
Social media news feed tends to play a major role in shaping public opinion. Social media enables a more time-sensitive, relational and open portrayal of public opinion. In light of this, political beliefs shared on social media are inherently relational and public since they are made available to or intended for an audience (McGregor, 2019). Social media, with their conversational nature, resemble public gatherings or citizen groups as a communal and public space where public opinion can be expressed. While publications like tweets or comments can be contextually understood based on an individual’s perceived readership, quantifiable metrics such as likes and replies are measures of interactions between people (McGregor, 2019). Moreover, social media opinions extend the temporal bounds of socially manufactured public opinion. As seen in the case of the US general elections in 2016, news media, and consequently journalists, have been crucial in transforming polling data into public opinion. Journalism began to rely on polling at the same time that polling came to rely on journalists in part for legitimacy and dissemination (McGregor, 2019).
Twitter presents an excellent example of how social media news feeds significantly influence public opinion. Twitter connections are different from engagements on other social networking sites in that they are primarily about connecting with people for information sharing other than for personal interactions. Therefore, during significant political events on Twitter, one would anticipate seeing distinct information clusters as well as clear information flows. Additionally, Twitter is used by individuals with strong viewpoints whose voices are frequently muted in the media (Gorodnichenko et al., 2021). As a result, information from Twitter may provide us with a more comprehensive picture of public sentiment during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election than what we can gather from traditional media. Social media could indeed have a new impact on public opinion since Twitter and other social media platforms may foster a perception of public support or consensus. In particular, social bots might disseminate and magnify false information, altering people’s perspectives on a subject and probably supporting their existing ideas (Gorodnichenko et al., 2021). Unlike other social media platforms, politicians rely on Twitter to facilitate their campaigns.
Despite the influence of social media on public opinion, it is quite unfortunate considering the concentration of false news on social media platforms. Some research study was done to determine the prevalence of fake news on social media platforms like Twitter (Grinberg et al., 2019). Findings indicated that five percent of aggregate subjection to political links during the 2016 American election cycle came from fake news sources when summed across all panels. Day-to-day variations in the percentage of information from false news sources led to an increase during the campaign’s closing weeks (Grinberg et al., 2019). Similar patterns were seen in content sharing, with fake news sources accounting for 6.7% of political links disseminated. These aggregate quantities, however, conceal the fact that there was a high concentration of fake news items on a few websites and among a small group of panels (Grinberg et al., 2019). Among the flaws of social media as sources of news is seen through the commonness of fake news on such platforms.
As demonstrated in the case of Twitter, bots can be used on social media platforms to spread fake news. Social bots are computer programs that engage with users and post material on social media. Bots are increasingly being used for political purposes, including broadcasting content, propagating propaganda, inflating a politician’s following, and quietly swaying political dialogue. Governments and political elites have deployed bots in nations ranging from Azerbaijan to Italy to Venezuela, frequently to persecute dissidents or skew news coverage of a topic. This is particularly true in tense, contentious political situations like national elections. The 2016 presidential election saw widespread use of bots. For instance, despite making up only 0.5% of Twitter users during the first presidential debate, bots produced 20% of the posts regarding the debate. This traffic was significantly more frequently generated by pro-Trump bots than by pro-Clinton bots (Marwick & Lewis, 2017). Bots can be used as agents of spreading false information through social media.
In conclusion, the public’s perception is significantly shaped by social media news feeds, but these channels are sadly vulnerable to fake news. Public opinion is frequently greatly influenced by what is posted in social media news feeds. Social media makes it possible to portray public opinion in a way that is more relational, timely, and open. Twitter is a great illustration of how social media news feeds have a big impact on public opinion. In contrast to other social networking sites, Twitter interactions are more about engaging with people for information exchange than interpersonal interactions. Notwithstanding the impact of social media on public opinion, it is unfortunate that fake news is so concentrated and pervasive on these platforms.
Gorodnichenko, Y., Pham, T., & Talavera, O. (2021). Social Media, Sentiment and Public Opinions: Evidence from# Brexit and# USElection. European Economic Review, 136, 103772. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.euroecorev.2021.103772
Grinberg, N., Joseph, K., Friedland, L., Swire-Thompson, B., & Lazer, D. (2019). Fake News on Twitter During The 2016 US Presidential Election. Science, 363(6425), 374-378. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aau2706
Lee, T. (2019). The Global Rise Of “Fake News” And the Threat to Democratic Elections in the USA. Public Administration and Policy, 22(1), 15-24. https://doi.org/10.1108/PAP-04-2019-0008
Marwick, A. E., & Lewis, R. (2017). Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online. Data and Society Research Institute, 1-104.
McGregor, S. C. (2019). Social Media as Public Opinion: How Journalists Use social media To Represent Public Opinion. Journalism, 20(8), 1070-1086. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884919845458