BREAKING NEWS MHSAA delays start of fall sports by two weeks Full Story
WEATHER AUTHORITY : Heat Advisory View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Renee DiResta: Misinformation is a 'chronic condition'

The avalanche of false news that gathered speed in 2016 isn't going away -- and efforts that focus only on f...

Posted: Nov 17, 2018 3:22 PM
Updated: Nov 17, 2018 3:22 PM

The avalanche of false news that gathered speed in 2016 isn't going away -- and efforts that focus only on fixing the problem are missing the mark, one expert says.

Renee DiResta, the head of policy at Data for Democracy and director of research at New Knowledge, has studied disinformation campaigns for years. In August, she participated in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign influence on social media.

Disinformation

Societal issues

Society

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Marketing and advertising

A clear-cut solution for misinformation might be appealing, but DiResta has found that it doesn't exist.

"I think we have to think of this as more of a chronic condition," DiResta told CNN's Brian Stelter on this week's Reliable Sources podcast.

Propaganda and disinformation have always existed, but "the issue is that right now, we have an information ecosystem that really facilitates the amplification of that content, that facilitates it going viral," DiResta said.

Listen to the whole podcast here:

Foreign actors, terrorists, and spammers take advantage of the internet's fast-spreading pipeline for information. They buy bots to spread messages, amplify manufactured narratives, and post misleading memes for clicks and shares. Researchers like DiResta aim to get ahead of these forces, predict what could happen next, and act accordingly.

"As the actors misuse the platforms, we're going to be responding much like an arms race," she said.

But it's also the responsibility of tech companies to be transparent about when, how, and where they find what DiResta deems the "malign distribution" of content.

The New York Times this week exposed Facebook's failure to properly deal with the early warning signs of Russian interference on the platform as leaders at the company passed off security responsibilities to others.

"To realize the extent to which they knew and how early they knew that was deeply disturbing," DiResta told Stelter. She believes that tech companies are improving in their efforts to combat misinformation, but it's also time for the government to step up.

"I am not advocating for the regulation of ideas," she said. "I am advocating for oversight. I think what we saw in that article... is that self-regulation with no oversight does not work."

The government has tried, in part, to police Big Tech. Last fall, Senators Amy Klobuchar, Mark Warner, and John McCain introduced legislation called the Honest Ads Act that would require the same disclosures for online political ads as those on TV and the radio.

Users continue to encounter extreme and false content on social sites, in part because platforms like Facebook are designed to keep people engaged. Algorithms have learned that sensationalist content maintains eyeballs -- and ad dollars.

The consequences of such a system are far-reaching.

"Democracy is predicated on an informed electorate," DiResta said. "Things like misinformation, radicalization, pushing people into conspiratorial groups and then profiting from that because it drives engagement, that's just not a viable state for the information ecosystem to be in."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 37542

Reported Deaths: 1272
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds304154
DeSoto200920
Madison150839
Jones123149
Harrison118316
Rankin113719
Neshoba104577
Forrest104343
Lauderdale97281
Scott83115
Jackson80419
Washington75313
Copiah67516
Leake63520
Lee63022
Grenada6259
Oktibbeha62328
Warren60021
Holmes59841
Lamar5847
Wayne56819
Yazoo5667
Lowndes54917
Leflore53956
Lincoln53835
Pike51120
Lafayette5094
Sunflower5058
Panola4616
Monroe46036
Simpson4533
Covington4505
Bolivar41618
Tate39513
Attala38624
Newton37710
Adams36720
Pontotoc3636
Marion34912
Claiborne31511
Pearl River30832
Chickasaw30219
Winston30211
Marshall2973
Jasper2826
Noxubee2799
Walthall2748
Clay26211
Smith25612
Union25612
Coahoma2356
Clarke22825
Lawrence2162
Yalobusha2089
Tallahatchie1974
Montgomery1863
Kemper18414
Carroll18311
Humphreys17410
Calhoun1705
Hancock15213
Itawamba1478
Tippah14711
Jefferson1373
Webster13511
Prentiss1274
Tunica1263
George1253
Jefferson Davis1254
Greene11610
Alcorn1112
Amite1113
Tishomingo1091
Quitman1011
Wilkinson1019
Perry914
Stone772
Choctaw764
Franklin572
Sharkey480
Benton470
Issaquena111
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 56441

Reported Deaths: 1136
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson7012170
Mobile5061140
Montgomery4599112
Tuscaloosa274353
Madison25359
Marshall205012
Shelby176425
Lee164737
Morgan13975
Baldwin134111
Walker111332
Elmore107622
Etowah106914
Dallas10189
DeKalb10017
Franklin95016
Unassigned77728
Autauga71515
Russell7130
Chambers68530
Cullman6686
Limestone6653
Butler65529
Houston6417
Tallapoosa63069
Lauderdale6006
St. Clair5983
Calhoun5545
Colbert5286
Escambia5128
Lowndes49222
Pike4805
Jackson4422
Coffee4364
Covington43512
Talladega4177
Dale4061
Barbour4022
Bullock37810
Hale36323
Marengo36111
Chilton3452
Blount3311
Clarke3236
Wilcox3158
Marion30914
Winston3095
Sumter29713
Pickens2786
Randolph2759
Monroe2683
Perry2552
Conecuh2388
Bibb2271
Macon2229
Choctaw22012
Greene2009
Henry1573
Washington1529
Lawrence1460
Crenshaw1343
Cherokee1317
Geneva1010
Fayette901
Clay892
Lamar891
Coosa671
Cleburne481
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Broken Clouds
93° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 96°
Columbus
Clear
91° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 102°
Oxford
Broken Clouds
93° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 97°
Starkville
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 94°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather