Prospectus: Viral Misinformation on Social Media Essay Strong first draft, Zhongcheng. Nice work. Now lets refine and expand. Here are some suggestions in
Prospectus: Viral Misinformation on Social Media Essay Strong first draft, Zhongcheng. Nice work. Now lets refine and expand. Here are some suggestions in addition to my margin notes:
Is it possible to address viral misinformation in the abstract? Because there are many different forms of misinformation (and fake news), the problem might require many different solutions. For example, news outlets publishing false/unverified news is a different sort of problem than anti-vaxxers posting conspiratorial nonsense on message boards or facebook.
Find some stronger examples of the problem. The Apple example is weak (few readers will accept that Apple’s planned obsolescence isn’t really happening—I’m one of them). But even if you use it, or something like it, you need to describe how the story spread. It was a combination of actual reporting by news outlets, which were then spread through social media, and tons of gossip by individuals on the same platforms.
Discuss the Communications Decency Act, section 230, which prevents platforms from being held liable for user behavior.
Dig deeper into the legal history. There are more significant/relevant cases to discuss for this than Cohen.
Here’s an article you might find helpful/interesting: https://aeon.co/essays/how-the-internet-flips-elec…
A big part of the problem is that many fake news sites very quietly bill themselves as satirical. Investigate this aspect of the problem.
Proofread. Wang 1
17 Jan 2019
Prospectus: Viral Misinformation on Social Media
Presentation of the problem
This paper seeks to examine the issue of viral misinformation on social media, a concept
that has brought about heated debates across many platforms in the entire world. Free speech is a
gift that the forefathers gave to Americans and many other countries around the world, but technological dynamics have brought about many controversies to the extent that many people are
now questioning whether we need freedom over the internet. The current paper, therefore, seeks
to answer this problem: “how can balance be stricken between free speech and social media regulation to curb the debilitating problem of viral misinformation?”
Viral misinformation is the situation in which unsubstantiated rumors are propagated
across social networks. It can occur either intentionally or unintentionally, and its consequences
can be far-reaching (Bessi et al. n.p.). The issue is thus very relevant as far as modern communication systems are concerned because it has implications on the social, economic, and political
domains of contemporary society. Social media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and
Instagram are the leading sources of viral misinformation, and there have been various situations
in which information drawn from these sites has been used for the wrong purposes, and some of
the implications of such information are deleterious. It may not be illegal to share unsubstantiated rumors because sometimes they may be accurate and helpful, but when such stories are as a
result of falsehoods, the whole process raises ethical and moral concerns. Firstly, a culture of dishonesty is being promoted, especially when the false information is shared intentionally. Interestingly, the only way that this destructive trend can be curbed is by coming up with more stringent
laws on free speech, but such a move would compromise the fundamental principle of the 1st
Warrant of the Problem
One of the most recent incidences of viral misinformation has been the spread of Ebola
rumors. Allgaier and Svalastog point out that the fear and misinformation that were spread in
2015 concerning the disease led to severe disruptions in many healthcare domains and many
other social complications. Regions far away from West Africa were also part of this viral misin
formation. Iowa public health agencies had to quickly dispel such rumors after it was alleged that
the disease was now in the state. Moreover, countless posts across the internet claimed that the
plague could be spread through food, water, and air, but such rumors could not be scientifically
proven. The role of social media in this viral misinformation event is undebatable. At the same
time, the same social media platforms have shown to be indispensable when it comes to the creation of awareness of such pandemics. Therefore, an in-depth analysis of the situation is needed to
come up with recommendations on how to strike a balance.
Figure 1 illustrates diagrammatic representation of communication in social media
Moreover, Apple is a multinational company that has significantly experienced the impact of viral misinformation particularly concerning its iPhone products and their operating system updates. Over the years, Apple has been known to consistently release new updates to enhance operation of its iPhones where customers then take the responsibility to allow the new updates to their devices. Nevertheless, these efforts by Apple have at some point been demeaned by
the misinforming characteristic of the social media. The release of iOS 12.1 in the year
2016/2017 caused malfunctioning of some Apple products such as iPhone 4, 5 and 6 which were
unable to accommodate the new operating system that caused them to shut down a few minutes
after the update (Bashir and Aqeel 172). The updates affected the power life of the battery—an
incident that did not go well with the users of the devices thus escalating to an online expression
of fury that was defined by misinterpretation and misinformation. The viral misinformed claim in
social media argued that Apple’s move of introducing the new operating system to old devices
was geared towards phasing out the old devices from the market to stimulate demand for its
newly released products. The discourse went viral and almost every Apple user and the larger
online community almost subscribed to it (argument) until Apple came out clearly to redress the
issue. On the contrary, Apple clarified that its intention was far from what was circulating in the
social media and although it was true to the fact that the new operating system caused malfunctioning to some of its devices, it was an ordinary programming issue that it addressed and restored normality of the devices (Samet, Nutanong, and Fruin 59).
Figure 2 illustrates an Apple product and the user
Apple’s case is a reflection of prevalence of misinformation that is profoundly being propelled by the social media in the modern generation. The consequences of such are undoubtedly
enormous as far as business reputation is concerned.
Various Perspectives about the topic
The level of complexity reflected in any debates featuring this topic ends up with multiple perspectives and lines of reasoning. On the one hand, there are those who argue that it is the
role of the person receiving any information from the social media to sieve it and determine what
elements are true and what is false. On the other hand, there are those who point out that the regulatory authorities have an obligation of controlling the social media platforms to ensure that
every information that is passed in such domains is substantiated. This is not an easy task, and it
can also end up being an infringement into people’s rights as granted to them by the First
Figure 3 shows diagrammatic representation of misinformation
Various experts have aired their concerns and opinions about the topic. Mike Roberts, a
leader, and expert in matters of internet information, has pointed out that viral misinformation
may not be curbed through government regulation (Anderson and Rainie). He believes that it is
the role of every person to gradually collect scientifically provable information throughout their
course of life as this will, in turn, make them more aware of their environment and more able to
determine whether the information is true or false. On the other hand, Amy Webb, a credible
thought-leader and the founder of the Future Today Institute argues that the current level of misinformation has been encouraged by modern economic systems, and it is only through changing
them there can be a reduction in fake news over the internet (Anderson and Rainie). She believes
that the government has a role to play in such interventions.
Even the most accomplished experts in legal matters have admitted that interpreting the
First Amendment in the wake of fake news can be a tall order. Firstly, the First Amendment does
not expressly talk about various aspects of fake news but is rather general and open for interpretation. According to Tompros et al. (82), “the First Amendment does not protect certain categories of low-value speech.” A heightened level of scrutiny is required to determine whether any
instance of viral misinformation is substantial and consequential enough to demand the utilization of First Amendment concepts. In Cohen v. California, it was established that under free
speech, there is a marketplace of ideas, and therefore it can be argued that this marketplace is expected to be vulnerable to falsehoods at times, and such lies cannot be controlled by jeopardizing
the very concept of free speech. In United States v. Alvarez, it was ruled that it was not illegal to
falsify information about one’s possession of military medals. This set some controversial precedence because many subsequent cases that revolve around the spread of misinformation often
cite this ruling. On the whole, there is an urgent need to explore the legal, ethical, religious,
moral, and political dimensions of viral misinformation to determine the most appropriate actions needed.
The social media is almost equivalent to the famous revolutionary phrase in the political
dimension that it is ‘an idea whose age has come and therefore unstoppable’. The community has
diverse views concerning social media information, however, regardless of the broadness of
these perceptions, it must be admitted that social media is equally beneficial as it is destructive.
No one can imagine this age without social media as it plays a profound role of information that
surpasses misinformation. Nonetheless, it important to admit that the social media has been a
nuisance to various dimensions of life most notable being the political sector especially in America where the issue of viral ‘fake news’ has become prevalent. Individual reputations are ruined
and business reputations are tarnished by viral misinformation on social media as they are built
through advertising and the general online presence provided by the social media platforms.
Allgaier, Joachim, and Anna Lydia Svalastog. “The communication aspects of the Ebola virus
disease outbreak in Western Africa–do we need to counter one, two, or many epidemics?.” Croatian medical journal 56.5 (2015): 496.
Anderson, Janna, and Lee Rainie. “The future of truth and misinformation online.” Pew Research
Center: Internet, Science & Tech 19 (2017).
Bashir, Adeela, and Sehrish Aqeel. “The Rapid Success of Apple’s IPhone 6 and the Challenges.” (2017): 169-175.
Bessi, Alessandro, et al. “Viral misinformation: The role of homophily and polarization.” Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on World Wide Web. ACM, 2015.
Samet, Hanan, Sarana Nutanong, and Brendan C. Fruin. “Dynamic presentation consistency issues in smartphone operating systems.” Communications of the ACM 59.9 (2016): 58-67.
Tompros, Louis W., et al. “The Constitutionality of Criminalizing False Speech Made on Social
Networking Sites in a Post-Alvarez, Social Media-Obsessed World.” Harvard Journal of
Law & Technology 31.1 (2017): 65.
Topic: Viral Misinformation on Social Media
Presentation of the Problem: How can balance be stricken between free speech and
social media regulation to curb the debilitating problem of viral misinformation?
Warrant of the Problem
Paragraph 1: Ebola rumors
Paragraph 2: Apple’s misinformation
Various Perspectives about the topic
Paragraph 3: Mike Roberts’s perspective
Paragraph 4: Amy Webb’s perspective
Paragraph 5: First Amendment
Paragraph 6: Cohen v. California
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