Misinformation madness: The negative impact of false information spread by social media

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Kendall Jarvis

Misinformation is easily fed into social media users’ minds due to the quick nature of posting to these platforms.

Kendall Jarvis, News Editor

Recently, misinformation has been spreading faster than ever with the growing usage of all social media platforms. This issue poses a threat to intellectual integrity and society’s natural flow of factual information.

Misinformation has plagued all platforms of social media by changing people’s viewpoints and forcing products and ideas posed as facts at them. One of the most notable platforms for the spread of false information is Facebook. Facebook has been criticized by many for the unfiltered spread of misinformation that instills users’ minds with evidence that is false. 

These criticisms were followed by Facebook’s choice to take action and hire independent fact-checkers for all posts on the website. Fact-checking on Facebook began in 2016, but the full-force usage of this system didn’t occur until after the Coronavirus outbreak, around October. 

Facebook saw backlash from many of its users, mainly from the right, with claims of censorship. Some of the fact-checkers responded by sharing the mathematical nature of false information for both sides of the political spectrum, showing more issues on the right. 

Senior Hannah Troendle, a social media user, stated, “[Misinformation] is all around us and I didn’t see the damage of it until the last election. There was a lot of false information about each candidate and the two parties.”

Although Facebook sees mostly political misinformation, other platforms, including Tik Tok, have seen issues with other areas of false information. Tik Tok has allowed many people to become micro-influencers or people who have a limited number of followers and use personal stories to influence their audience.

Influencers can earn thousands of dollars through advertisements in their feeds creating a big pull to spread information about products to make a profit. To users, micro-influencers are more real and believable, leading them to buy companies’ products. While this is somewhat true, many influencers accept these advertisements without an honest belief in the benefits of the product. 

Many controversies have arisen due to celebrities and other influencers supporting products they do not actually use. This form of misinformation impacts society just as equally as a false political post because it determines what users consume. The consumption of products is built off trust and favorability of a product, and the misinformed influence on these products harms consumers’ ability to weave through the information blasted at them.

Senior Ava Satterfield, another social media user, shared her experience with social media influencers selling products. “I’ve definitely been persuaded to buy things that influencers have promoted. One that really sticks out to me is my lifting shoes that were recommended by some cross-fitters I follow,” she shared. Troendle also commented on the selling of products stating that she won’t buy any products only recommended by influencers. 

While these platforms have been attacked for the spread of misinformation on their apps, many others have avoided questioning with no apparent reason. Another platform, Instagram, has become extremely popular for spreading political information among teens. Many users, one of the most popular being Feminist, dedicate their account to spreading information about current political topics. 

But, these posts are not questioned, as Instagram does not have the same fact-checking policies as Facebook. Problems like this are also seen on Twitter, which allows users to voice their opinions. Oftentimes, opinion is blended into facts giving posts sharing half-true information. 

Satterfield shared her opinion on where the line between misinformation and censorship should be drawn. “I think fact-checkers on social media sites should be commonplace. Although it is okay to share your opinion, those people should make it clear that it is not a fact,” she stated.

As social media platforms continue to evolve and popularize, the concern of misinformation will have to be addressed and policies will have to be made to protect censorship and stop the spread of false information.