Weapons of Mass Manipulation

from Medium

Politics in the days of social networks has gone down some very strange paths. In non-democracies, such as China, the regime devotes more people to the elimination and manipulation of content on social networks than to its huge army: a significant part of the population dedicates its time to replicating the work of George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, fabricating an alternative reality for the rest of the population, eliminating anonymous, critical or “unacceptable” comment, inserting praise for the government on forums, networks and newspapers using multiple accounts to simulate widespread support.

In Russia, things are pretty much the same: thousands of trolls, bots and fake accounts devote their time to protect the leadership of Vladimir Putin and manipulating the political landscape in his favor. The automation of disinformation practices the regime perfected in some former Soviet republics has now been proven to have been used in the recent US presidential elections.

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24 Responses to Weapons of Mass Manipulation

  1. Greg D'Ottavi September 13, 2017 at 10:50 pm #

    Social media is an aspect of society in which I have not lived without. Of course, technically, I was alive before Facebook and Twitter existed, but essentially, as far back as I can remember, the internet and social media has always been present. With that said, it has expanded exponentially since its birth and it is interesting now to see how it affects all other aspects of society. This article dives into the realm of social media from a political standpoint while also scratching the surface of social media’s overall effects on the public.
    The author begins his article by bringing up examples of how social media is viewed and used in other countries outside of the United States. As someone who has only been out of the United States once, it was interesting to read how differently a country like China uses social media. China is not a democratic country like the United States, which means their government has certain powers and aspects that do not translate to the United States. Social media is such a large platform that it used by so many people globally and China has taken to this platform to promote the likeness of the government and censor what its citizens are viewing. This is an interesting concept in my opinion because it is such a different side of the social media giant that I have never witnessed. This is also where the author begins to speak about the manipulation aspect within these societies. Manipulation through social media is not something that has gone unseen. In my own experiences, I can say that within a day I probably witness hundreds of promotions or advertisements through various social apps. The ability to reach millions of people at once from all over the world is something that has only been available in the last ten to fifteen years.
    The authors next example comes from Russia who, like China, is not a true democratic country and uses social media to manipulate. The involvement of Russia in the 2016 United States Presidential Election is attributed to the use of social media, specifically Facebook. Fake accounts were created to promote ads to US voters in order to change their opinions. This is something unprecedented within the political world and is definitely something that can become very dangerous. If more and more non-democratic countries begin to use social media in order to influence and manipulate voters around the world to their own liking, it will become a major issue. In my opinion, it is up to the social media giants to deflate these manipulation efforts by creating ways to more closely monitor an account’s activity. There needs to be some sort of process to pinpoint suspicious activity and stop it before it expands. Traditional media is finding its way out the door as social media has become the major news outsource for so many people.
    I am almost certain that the majority of people aging 12 to 30 get most of their news from social media outlets. It has become the societal norm to read the latest Facebook newsfeed and Twitter timeline each morning rather than picking up a newspaper or sometimes even turning on the television. This is an issue that has grown larger than anyone could have expected and at this point it is somewhat scary to think what might become of social media as time goes on. This article gave great insight to a side of social media that I have rarely considered and after reading it, I have a better understanding of how media is changing and effecting the world. Social media is a great thing when used properly, but unfortunately, there is a substantial amount of uncertainty that follows behind it. I am an avid user of various social media sources and have been for a while now, but I can safely say that I am somewhat worried for the future roles it will play in our society.

  2. Lucas Nieves-Violet September 14, 2017 at 4:43 pm #


  3. Lucas Nieves-Violet September 14, 2017 at 5:01 pm #

    Speeches and debates will only be able to go so far nowadays. I remember last year watching the republican and democrat debates with my friends laughing at the absurdities that would come out of politicians mouth. The truth is that the pure laughter and messages to the audience as well as backlash of those debates didn’t come live, they came a couple of days later online in my case it was Twitter. Twitter is excellent when it comes to media and news, and I say that in a sarcastic manner. Be sure that every policy that nut jobs create end up on my feed or everyone else’s for that matter, whether we like it or not and that is where ideas start to form. The rumors and jokes come with a series of memes and eventually quotes like “Hillary said this” Trump stated that.” I have to admit it’s quite a kick to see, Seth Rogen’s (Sethrogan) posting pictures of DM’s (Direct message) conversations asking questions to Trump himself and then Trump Jr and then being blocked by them for expressing how he feels.
    This sort of way of communicating has become a way of exposing people it is in many ways a weapon. It is amazing the amount of time Trump posts something on twitter and states he never said such things and few hours or minutes later seeing someone post a picture or even quote tweeting Trump’s exact word proving him that he is wrong. This factor is not just Trump thought, he simply just always is a topic of conversation on Twitter. Why is that you may ask? I mean don’t even follow him on twitter and somehow he still ends on my feed. The whole point of social media is that we are in some way all connected. If a topic becomes significant enough it will eventually be retweeted, and once it is shared with enough people it becomes general, and everyone can access it. This is not just about the Twitter platform, it’s about all of them: Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Snapchat, even YouTube. All of those sites have something in common that is a “Trending”. What is trending right now, what do people want to see or what have they heard. Social Media is now made, so that is almost impossible not to know what is going It has become tailored for people to see and listen to what they want. If you follow Democrats on twitter for say you will most likely see people on your feed filled with Trump hate, but if you follow Republicans, you will probably see people cheering for him instead. It all depends as to the which person you are.

  4. Lucas Nieves-Violet September 14, 2017 at 5:02 pm #

    The U.S is known to be a free country that is why we can see all these different opinions online as well as on the streets. However other countries as stated in the article by Enrique Dans have limited and restricted internet to protect the political balance a country. The first two that come to mind are North Korea and Russia of course. I remember a couple of years ago hearing that North Korea did not allow access to Facebook or YouTube in their country and I remember thinking it was a joke and well it wasn’t. Some countries have such small political that any negative spread could damage the society and the country itself. The other reason is simply that the leaders want to stay in power, such as Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-Un. The chances are that if a topic is trending on one platform, it will most likely be trending on all the others. The fact that people can have such impact on society or even the world by typing things or saying things online just shows us how important and powerful media sites are.
    As for making fake accounts, it is important to know and understand that they are just as important and powerful as an actual user. If there are enough fake accounts, then the topic they discuss will eventually become trending to real users, and once this happens well, the topic and new ideas will have already spread. Ads and social media a re very similar and alike. Advertisements in a way are imposed on us whether we like it or not we see them at one point or another.

  5. Lucas Nieves-Violet September 14, 2017 at 5:05 pm #

    What Russia is doing according to the article is nothing but advertisement strategy which is what we do in our daily lives, it may be shocking when we first notice it but after examining our surroundings, it becomes more clear that advertisement and social platform can be used to change the political balance and opinion of a country.

  6. Nicholas Birchby September 15, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

    Social Media is so interesting because it is used for such a wide variety of reasons. You can chat with friends, watch funny videos, do research, or even rig presidential elections. Social Media truly is a tool of Manipulation in some cases. Countries such as China have extremely censored social media, so the government controls everything they can and cannot see. The most shocking example occurred very recently and is still ongoing. Facebook has said over 450 accounts have been linked to Russia that were using money to buy ads regarding the upcoming election. The goal was for them to cause a divide in the citizens, and it is estimated that there ads were seen by 70 Million U.S. voters. It is extremely unsettling knowing that Russia has the power to truly influence the outcomes of our elections. Being that Russia is arguably our biggest rival, it should scare Americans that they are almost making our decisions for us. I think it is completely unacceptable we as a country allowed this to happen. The communication power of apps like Twitter have never been seen before. When Donald Trump clicks the Send button, his message is instantly spread across the globe to millions of people. For reference, there is approximately 700 Million people currently active on twitter. Never in the history of the world have we been able to spread news faster than with Social Media. When terror attacks occur, within an hour it would have spread across all social media and would have been shown everywhere. This power of communication is the reason social media is such an efficient way to spread a message, or to influence a very large group of people in a very short amount of time. Social Media is everywhere we look nowadays. Walking to class, you will see hundreds of Seton Hall students with heads down, reading Twitter as they walk through campus. This is the same all across the country, this is why social media is so manipulating. Almost any major company uses Social Media. Apps like Twitter and Instagram are perfect for businesses to advertise their products. In the United States social media is very diverse, meaning you can find just about everything on it. However, in countries such as China and North Korea, there social media is extremely restricted. There is nothing negative about politics on social media, or else the person responsible for it would go to prison. Their governments do not allow for freedom in social media because they want to control exactly what their people think of them. If you go on Twitter in America, there is millions of people saying negative things about the government, because it is completely accepted. It is shocking when you consider the differences between the two worlds. People my age would be in complete shock if one day our social media was cut off, it has become a part of our lives. Everyone has a smart phone, everyone has the internet and social media at the tips of their fingers. It is easy to see how news and advertisements spread so quickly across the country. Social Media has manipulated the entire world into a whole new era, where everyone on the planet can be connected through one small device that fits in your pocket. It is incredibly exciting and incredibly scary to see where technology and social media will go in the near future.

  7. Henry Steck September 15, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

    In countries like Russia and China, social media is at the top of a long list of restrictions. These countries which possess deep autocratic histories simply cannot allow their populations to gain autonomy through freedom of expression. The side effects of freedom of expression are strong and include civil disobedience unseen in places like China. The Arab Spring exemplifies the aforementioned theory of power loss. Wars in Libya and Syria have been fought just as much over social media outlets as with guns. Youtube, Facebook and twitter brought down dictators like Gaddafi, and it can do the same in countries like China where hundreds of millions of voices are muted each year in elections.

  8. Rebecca Hu September 15, 2017 at 4:03 pm #

    This article written by Enrique Dans published on the Medium website. It mainly discusses the influence of internet and politics. As technology improved, our lifestyle has also changed. We no longer rely on prints for news or entertainment. No matter you are an adult or a kid in elementary school, almost everyone in the world has access to the internet through their device. People are no longer restrained in front of TV or a newsstand for information. It is common for people to access political information on their social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
    The article also mentions that in countries such as China and Russia, the government put in a lot of effort to restrict the negative influence on the political government and leaders. The social network system is a portal for advertisement, for the government “using social networks to pursue a specific strategy, to manipulate public opinion”. I do not think this should be something new. Since the start of the First World War, people have been using posters, propaganda to advertise nationalism and the “ultimate enemy”. The only difference is that it use to be in paper form, now it is on the digital platform.
    I have spent some time living in Beijing the capital of China, also lived in Hong Kong. The biggest difference between the two cities is that Beijing’s network is under the regulation of the Chinese government. Which means there is the China Firewall, restricting you to access sites like Facebook, or YouTube. Where the government has no control over what is being posted on the websites. Same with Google, Google refused to provide data to the China government, therefore, they are forced to exit the Chinese market.
    On the other hand, in Hong Kong it is more “freedom”, there is access to sites such as Facebook, YouTube. The only concern rising in Hong Kong is that people who posted statements that have a negative influence on the Chinese government rule are either “sick” or having “vacation” in China. There are consequences with the freedom of speech in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is currently ruled under the one nation two-system rule, this system will expire in 2047. Recently Hong Kong’s attitude towards the central communist rule is disapproval and disappointment. With the system expire, maybe the capitalist Hong Kong will no longer exist.
    After reading this article and some comments raised above I see that the point raised the most are countries such as Russia, North Korea, China the government have censorship. In the United States of America, it is a “free” country. I agree with the statement on how in the United States of America, there is a certain amount of rights and freedom given to the citizens. The most important one is the freedom of speech, different voices and opinions can be heard but other than that actually United States might be not as “free” as many of us think it is.
    In the name of security and terrorism, I believe the United States intelligence agencies are monitoring almost everyone. I do not think that a democratic nation who do no “censor” is a more free country. The public is always the last one to know the truth. The nation has other means to control the mass population. Just think about the Snowden incident, there are documents being leaked information that is confidential, not suitable for the public. All in the name to protect the country and the population.
    I believe that since the invention of the internet, nothing is safe. Everything is under the control of the government. The Internet is so convenient it connects everyone, however, it is a double edge sword. It can benefit us, it can also be a tool for the government to “regulate” and restore order in society. Maybe because I have witness censorship in China and Hong Kong. I do not feel surprised when this article reported, “a significant number of voters were manipulated by the inflammatory messages spread by the intelligence service of a foreign power”. A social network system is a tool, different people use it for different purpose. We should not be naïve enough to believe everything posted on the internet, everything has two sides. There is always the bright side we are looking at, however, we should always remember that there are always some dark secrets behind the bright side. This trend will continue, as technology is an undividable part of the current lifestyle.

  9. Brian Ayoub September 15, 2017 at 5:13 pm #

    To begin, I thought the title of this article was pretty funny. “Weapons of mass manipulation” really gets to me because during a time where America’s main focus should be the rise of weapons of mass destruction such as the nuclear weapons that countries like North Korea and Russia are playing around with, the news is filled with controversy dealing with manipulation of elections and public opinion through social media. It is baffling how much of a low point the world has hit. You would think by this day in age that a country so advanced like America can prevent things like fake accounts swaying a presidential election to occur. However we are left to witness Twitter “beefs” between former Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. This is not the first time this has occurred though. During the 2014 World Cup, the North Korean government used twitter to manipulate the people of their country to think that their National team won the World Cup. If that happens, then I suppose this Russian manipulation should not come as a surprise.
    Although this article focuses on politics in the world of social media, the same applies for all, like sports and media stars. Some of the most outlandish things are said by sports media. ESPN has been accused many times of creating ridiculous headlines just for clicks and attention. Just the other day, ESPN made a list of the top 100 basketball players going into the 2017-2018 season. The picks were questionable, to say the least. Rookies like Lonzo Ball, were coming in higher than established NBA superstars, like Carmelo Anthony. This is just the start of the problem. A company like ESPN loses all credibility when they strive for media popularity, and not actual sports analysis.
    Another example of social media manipulating the public for popularity and clicks is the trending page of YouTube. I spend countless hours watching videos on Youtube when I should be doing homework. While some of the content is genuine quality, a lot of the time content creator choose to manipulate their viewers into something called “Title and Thumbnail click-bait”. This is when content creators make a totally outlandish title and thumbnail for their video just so people can click on the video and get a view. This results in money for the creator, while most of the time, these titles and thumbnails have nothing to do with the actual content of the video. To top it off, YouTube promotes these videos on their “Trending” page. Because YouTube promotes trashy content and neglects real videos of substance, they lose all credibility as a site.
    Now to move back onto the actual article, the same kind of manipulation that goes on in sports and social media, occurs in politics as well. CNN and Fox News are both so biased towards their political preference, that they both lose credibility as networks. The days of actual quality content is rapidly fading away, and social media manipulation is taking over.
    It is up to us to be able to look away from the social media bias and be smart enough to find content of real substance. I would like to think that this past election was a practice run for how politics will operate under the presence of social media. Now that we are experiencing the worst, we can now learn from our mistakes and not let social media manipulation fool us again. All social media websites should run under integrity and not under the mindset of being the most popular or wealthy. I know for a fact that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other popular social media powerhouses can easily filter out fake accounts and make algorithms to promote real content, not content that will get them the most website traffic.
    To conclude, it is up to us as a society to look past fake content and use our brains to do what is best for our country. It is one thing if we are under a dictatorship and can only see certain things, however we are completely free and are not censored at all. While saying this, social media websites should also have some integrity and find ways to prevent what happened with Russia rigging the election from ever happening again.

  10. Chris O'Handley September 15, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

    As the revolution of social media continues to progress, it becomes more clear that social media might pose just as many negatives as it does positives. Social media of course makes it much easier for people to stay in touch with one another and there is no doubt that many advancements in technology as a whole have made life easier but I cannot stop thinking whether or not it will be worth it in the end. Social media has made it too easy for people to express opinions without receiving recognition for those opinions. What I mean by that is that people know they can say whatever they want behind a screen anonymously and know that the average internet user would not be able to trace their posts back to them. This allows them to say things they would never say face to face and it really creates a dangerous environment online because you never really know who is who. This has led to an increase in cyberbullying, catfishing, and now propaganda. People nowadays tend to side with the popular opinion even if they do not necessarily share that opinion because it is much easier to hide in the crowd rather than going out on your own to stand up for something you believe in. That being said, politicians know how to use this fact to their advantage. This is not something that just came along with social media, politicians have been using propaganda for as long as politics has existed, but social media now makes that even easier. Before social media, politicians could still broadcast their opinions to a mass amount of people but back then, the people knew exactly who was expressing that opinion and could react accordingly. Now, anyone who wants to have an influence on any pressing issue could express their opinions anonymously and with multiple different personas. This allows one person to potentially have one opinion, and make it seem like a large mass of people agree with that opinion but in reality it could just be the same one person expressing their same one opinion on a bunch of fake profiles. This of course makes it easier for people to agree with the opinion because they see a bunch of other “people” agreeing with that opinion so they think it must be true. This is becoming very problematic, as evidenced in this article, because now politicians from other countries have caught light of this and have begun to make their own network of false identities to help endorse their opinions. This allows people who really should not have any say in our elections to falsely express wide belief in an opinion and make American voters start to believe in said opinion. It is problems like these that really make me question how far social media will have to evolve until people begin to think it could be causing more harm than good. With how rapidly social media is progressing, this could end up happening sooner than you think.

  11. Arielle Fortes September 15, 2017 at 8:24 pm #

    When someone has mentioned a weapon of mass destruction, what do you think of? Perhaps an atomic bomb. Like the atomic bomb that caused intense radiation poisoning and that caused many people to die in Japan in World War Two. Or perhaps you think of a biological weapon, one that can affect many people with disease. A hydrogen bomb which yet again causes damage in massive amounts. There could also be others who think of a chemical bomb, another dangerous weapon which is hard to keep track of. However, there is one weapon of mass destruction which many people would not have thought of which is social media.
    Have you ever heard the saying that if you want to keep a secret tell no one except yourself? As humans, we seem to love to know something that someone else doesn’t know. Also we like to share that we know what others don’t. We also know that humans are social creatures and love to share everything, especially what we think that other should know. I believe that this was the basis of social media. We just wanted everyone else to see what we knew. However, the negative side is that even if something is not true, the desire to share it that we have can make that rumor spiral out of control. There is an idea that some people have that if so many people shred it that it must be true.
    The increasing use of mass media makes this weapon so powerful. There would not be as much impact if there was not as many user of social media as there are today. According to statista.com, there are sound 2.46 billion social media users world-wide. There are around approximately 7.5 billion people in the world according to worldmeters.info. That means around one-third of the people in the world have some form of social media account. With such as large base it is very easy for anything to spread around. If something is very interesting or eye-catching then more people will view it, and see the information. Or best case scenario what someone is trying to say will spread around. In politics this is very helpful and very hurtful at the same time. This is extremely helpful for politics because it is so easy to spread information or more accurately propaganda. Due to all the people on that network many people will see good propaganda that people have spread about the politician or what the politician has spread for himself. There are fake accounts simply to spread propaganda for certain politicians. Even if a person does not necessarily view the article they can see the headline and have a more positive impression of them. However, the opposite also holds true. People can spread rumors about different politicians. Even if they are not true rumors many people can see these articles and spread them around to many people. This means that many people might see the headline and many a negative impression of the said politician.
    The easy accessibility of the media is also one aspect of the media which makes it so simple to gain or share information on it. You can just go onto your phone or computer for five minutes and view something that you want to see. You can search the entire social media base for key words to show what you want to see. This can make article pop up within seconds and can make sure that you won’t even take too much time browsing through the articles.
    Although social media is not the first weapon of mass destruction that you think of it can be something very impactful in politics and our everyday lives. It is so easily accessed by anyone who wishes to access it. Also, it is very fast to access it and can make sure that you can view what you want to extremely fast. The large base of people who access the network can ensure that information whether positive or negative can spread very easily. This can make sure that propaganda by politicians can be used for and against him. In conclusion, even though we know social media as the fun positive place where we can share photos and information of ourselves with others; it also has a darker side where politicians can use it to their advantage.

  12. Adam Rakowski September 20, 2017 at 9:51 am #

    The article touches on a rather sensitive topic especially since the most recent presidential elections were held not too long ago: how the power of the internet and social media can highly influence politics. As the years go by, innovators and entrepreneurs have more time to unleash a flood of social media applications and sites than ever. This high yield of technological advances has an extreme impact on our lives and the way we live it. Newspapers and magazines are now obsolete thanks to the rise of media platforms and those same newspaper companies transitioning to online news coverage instead. What is even more fascinating than the transition itself is the accessibility everyone in a modernized country has to this technology. With more and more platforms displaying news and the accessibility of these platforms rises, the possibility of misinterpreted or even false information is on the rise. The majority of youth in today’s society depend on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat to access any sort of news or current events going on today. While this all may seem great and convenient, the problem with this is that most of the news displayed on sites like Facebook with the help of BuzzFeed or the Washington Post, is complete and utter rubbish. It takes factual evidence, mushes it up, and sprinkles a little appeal to emotion and bias to earn more views and ‘likes’ among a naïve audience.
    There are, however, two sides of the coin here. While more modern countries such as the United States and Canada allow and encourage the widespread use of social media and technology, countries such as China and Russia do quite the opposite. The countries go beyond to put firewalls on major internet websites and platforms to avoid the potential of negative views and discussions about their government and political machine. This is just as ridiculous as it seems because what exactly makes them think that people will not have negative views towards their corrupted governments? Granted, technology and the internet has the potential of kindling the fire and spreading word of the errors of the government, but holistically, it seems irrational to be so strict when people are going to have those views anyways. The earliest form of this type of influence and manipulation were in the form of posters and propaganda that vilified governments and institutions that differed from each other. It is almost exactly the same here except those posters and billboards have become completely obsolete.
    My own parents grew up in Poland during the 70’s and 80’s, which was a time of strong Soviet/Communism influence so they knew firsthand what it was like to be restricted from doing or saying a particular thing. Backgrounds like that often bring up the possibility that those people who lived in those times will often have conservative views in the future and may not necessarily be open to adopting new ways of life. I do not think that that is a display a close-minded mentality, yet it is more of a habit and dogmatic lifestyle that they were brought up in. Despite all of the negatives in displaying current events using social media and the internet to manipulate or convince people to think a particular way, there are indeed many benefits. People have unlimited access to the news and it exposes important points in modern times to a younger audience who might not have necessarily been exposed to the age of newspapers and early 20th century propaganda. It is vital for the youth to be aware of what is going on around them because that same youth may be responsible for significant change in the future.

  13. Amber Esposito September 22, 2017 at 11:50 am #

    Social media has grown substantially over the last 17 years. Social networks have changed the way we socialize, behave, and view the world. Being born in 1997, social media has always been in my life. The older I get, the more I realize what an impact social networking has had generation Z in comparison to previous generations. From Myspace to Facebook, to instagram and news forums, social media has grown into a being that can manipulate the thoughts and views of people of all nations. Politics is not just watching the morning and evening news anymore, or just reading the news paper. It has evolved into around the clock live news coverage, blogs, and advertisements while you work, relax, eat, and sleep. You open your computer to a homepage filled with scandals, politics, and news updates.

    Enrique Dans, author of Weapons of Mass Manipulation, writes about how far social media has gone in the agenda of politics. The live coverage is there, but people put their own spin on things. News networks and people with political agendas can use social media forums as a platform to manipulate your opinions, and alter your social and political views. Where in the past, that was not available, and was not there to be used as a method of persuasion; just as a method of information. As stated in the article, we now face the most sophisticated assault on the foundations of democracy. Governments are using social media as a strategy manipulate public opinion, favor of their own. At the rate this is going, social media influence is only going to get worse. Social networks have to refine their filters to help stop the interference in electoral processes.

  14. CS October 7, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

    How powerful is information; a question this article does a good job at answering. The way information and news is distributed to the mass public has varied throughout the ages. One constant through all the changes is speed. People always want to know what is happening as soon as it happens; and with social media, they can. All types of social media platforms allow people to constantly consume information at alarming rates. Whether what people read and watch is true or false does not matter. People tune into platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to feel connected to the world. This connection is established through info pouring in quickly and at high volumes. People consume information without considering the credibility, and this is what people take advantage of, like the people that made the fake accounts in from Russia.
    The fake accounts based out of Russia were able to spread their message effectively enough to influence an election. Not just an election, an election on the other side of the world. People were manipulated by bots on the internet, identities that do not even exist. So, what kind of influence could real people hold through social media; people that are not even trying to push an agenda but simply sharing their thoughts. Social media provides the rare opportunity for people like that to be heard as their words and opinions can spread just as fast. Since a lot of people look to social media for their news and current events, who knows what kind of impact that could have.

  15. DJ October 8, 2017 at 8:59 pm #

    So glad this is being talked about. It would be great if everyone understood how social media can be used, and is used, by governments and others who have an interest in manipulating public opinion in order to control an outcome. This is a social weapon and should be discussed more. I recall having a conversation with a friend of mine during the 2016 elections, about some of the articles and information out there that was damaging to the reputations of some politicians. I found myself immersed in the political debates and news stories that continually followed and developed about both parties, and noticed that my opinions shifted quite a bit depending on which biased news channel I was watching! I know the rule about “never talking about politics” but because I had been so engrossed in the elections, I was anxious to hear the thoughts of someone I knew. I had no idea how badly this conversation was going to end. My friend and I did not speak for months because of this conversation! My friend was a victim of mass social media manipulation.
    Politics has never been my strong-house, in fact whenever asked about my opinion on a political topic I always told people “I have no opinion, I don’t follow politics”. But 2016 was different. Probably different for me and many others because Donald Trump was running for president and curiosity just got the best of us, who knows. It was like watching a reality show. Imagine that – the most important office in the United States being compared to a reality show. Even today, there are so many very strong opinions about this election and so much media coverage on it, it makes one question whether media outlets are being paid to write negative pieces, destroying an individual’s reputation and creating a villain in the public’s eye.
    Now, if we could just stop for a moment and realize that running for an office is a cut-throat business to be involved with and requires a special kind of personality, we might begin to also realize that all methods of gaining popularity and admiration must be used to reach people. How else would people form opinions and vote? Just as all major organizations across the globe know the value of advertising products and services on social media, so does everyone else, including psychopaths and leaders of countries.
    I have learned a great deal in this past election about how people are manipulated through news channels, newspapers, and social media. This “weapon of mass manipulation” is indeed destructive to the masses and doesn’t require too much effort. So long as people are unaware or uneducated, they fall victim to it. I have learned to listen and read critically. To me, when I see a headline or hear a news story, I assume it to be a biased report and if I am interested enough in the topic I will research further to get a better sense of the truth. I recall how angry my friend was with me as we exchanged opinions on that hot political topic. He did not consider that news can be biased. He simply believed that if its printed in the newspaper or spoken on a news channel, it is fact. This is not unusual though, many people think this way. Governments and others know this and can manipulate people easily. It’s interesting how far society has come with technology and social media. All of the new technologies are pushed to the market and social medial is constantly evolving but public education regarding social media being used as a weapon of manipulation is hardly talked about. Why not?

  16. Elliott Otmani October 11, 2017 at 2:15 pm #

    In 2017, Statista states that there is 2.46 billion of social media users in the world. Everyone individual who has access on the internet is basically a social media user. As known, there are a plenty of different social media available on the internet. On this sense, it is now very simple to share, see an info, be connected with the rest of the world. Social media users are taking over the “old fashion” journalism, radio, Tv, newspaper. We can consider that a social media user making a post is its own journalist, sharing his own opinion, his own information. The title of the article looks very interesting and explicit to me. Social media can manipulate the mass. Who was manipulating the mass in the past? Politics through media right? Nowadays, media are online, media are connected. As explained in the article, few different governments try to manipulate the mass through the social media. However, since the entire world is connected, it is now easier to manipulate the mass of other countries. I do not want to enter into the debate presented by the example on the article about the presidential election in the USA. Nonetheless, it asks a real problem about the impact of the social media, especially in terms of politics. Social media is not only a fun place to stay connected to friends or family. It has a political impact on populations. People from a country can know what is going on somewhere else, whether it is in a positive way or negative way. Social media can be a place of hate, of “virtual” violence, which often ends with real violence. Also, as shown on the article, it is also a place for politics to manage the mass, terrorists “recruit” on social media through fake accounts and fake identities. Social media is not only a fun place, it can be a very dangerous place, especially for the young population, but how can we control it? If governments have an interest on controlling the mass or to make mischief in other places, why would they care about controlling what is going on on the web. I personally think social media has more a negative impact overall, because it is easier for people to create hate (often on hidden pseudo or fake accounts) rather than working on peace. Social media are being an instrument of politics, of manipulation of the mass and it cannot actually be controlled anymore because they is too much going on, and controlling billion and billion of people (3 billion people expected on 2021) is impossible.
    Source cited: https://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/

  17. Nicholas Kerins October 27, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

    Social media whether we like it or not is here to stay. It has changed every aspect of our life. The ability to share information about anything including ourselves seems to be on trend. Growing up with social media in its growth stage has greatly affected me and my peers. We are exposed to more and more whether we like it or not. From sports to politics social media covers and effects everything. We also got to see the first two elections we voted in become riddled with social media influences and banter. “Our president tweets!” is something the United states can say. But where the United States success lies is in the constant revealing of the truth on our social media platforms. Social media accounts will constantly fact check and provide opinions from both sides. Even though this may seem overwhelming it’s a better situation than in most countries where social media is used by the government to brainwash the public into believing certain facts about the government and its leaders.
    The two most consistent offenders of this crime are Russia and China. The article “Weapons of Mass Manipulation” by Enrique Dan’s exposes some of the common practices in these two countries. China looks to delete info already on the web that paints a negative picture of the government and their different leaders. This is essentially trying to rewrite history, a tactic used by Germans after WW1 and the southern states after the civil war. This is an extreme injustice to the population because you are denying them the right to information, essentially keeping a billion people in the dark. This is more plausible in a country that is communist like china who have the power to censor the internet. On the other hand, Russia is a country that looks to create false information on the internet for future generations to digest. There are thousands of fake Facebook and twitter accounts that may just seem like regular people but are generated by members of Putin’s team. Putin has been president for over a decade and has remanded in favorable light. He does this by putting propaganda out on the internet bout himself, promoting all the great “things” he does for the Russian people.
    The other comments on this article expressed similar concerns to mine. What will happen to our democratic system in the United states? We already have experienced claims that Russia hacked the presidential election. In a global climate it matters whether other large foreign democracies are having rigged elections. Is there anything we can do? These questions need to be answered soon. As social media continues to grow along with technology as a society we need to learn to balance the two. How much of what we read on social media should affect our voting.

  18. Carolyn Wyland November 11, 2017 at 10:19 am #

    This post highlights how “the other side” is affected by technology and the internet present day. The effect of the internet in America is that news travels faster and can be more accurate. It is interesting that the internet has not affected every country in the same manner. How China manipulates their news is unfair to their citizens by not letting them have full access to the truth. When a government must manipulate their news, it shows mistrust of their people and a power issue.
    The mention of how China manipulates it news reminded me of a Chinese artist I learned about in an art class I took. The artist Al WeiWei uses photography, sculpture and installation art to protest the Chinese government. His art has gotten him in trouble with the Chinese government and even thrown in jail. Part of the way the Chinese government uses sensor ship is through blocking what people can look at on the internet to include Al WeiWei. Al WeiWei has put himself on the line to protest the Chinese government and he strives for freedom something we often take for granted in America. To read about Al Wei Wei click on the link: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-chinese-artist-ai-weiwei-became-an-enemy-of-the-state-2/

    What is more disturbing than a country suppressing their citizens’ rights to the truth is when a country uses their tactics on America. How Russia helped manipulate our elections could be overlooked and defended with the logic it is up to voters to decide what content to believe. I think that this manipulation cannot just be solely blamed on voters, it should be alarming to anyone that another country was able to insert themselves in our elections. America’s voting system was damaged from Russia’s actions. It should not matter if you are a Democratic or Republican, we are all still American and another country trying to manipulate the outcome of our elections is not okay.

  19. Anthony Arneth November 11, 2017 at 5:06 pm #

    Mass manipulation using social media has definitely gone down some strange paths. We all know how powerful social media is and how influencing it is to people. Creating fake social media accounts to lure and sway peoples opinion way one or the other is truly on the rise. Its not only happening in our country, it seems to be happening in a lot of other countries such as China and Russia. The current election is an example of mass manipulation through social media. There were confirmed accounts being created to get fake news out there to make, and it wasn’t necessarily people in the US creating theses accounts some were believed to be from Russia to help Donald Trump win the election.
    This type of manipulation is called rigging, which has been around for awhile but has now taken another form of social media, which entails creating fake accounts of ordinary people. This type of attacks with social media will definitely be a difficult thing to take control off and end. We will need to be aware of the fake accounts and of the fake news that is getting spread through social media. Social media is a strong and quick way to get information out, it only takes seconds to share information and for it to spread all over the world.

  20. Daria Di Paolo November 11, 2017 at 9:03 pm #

    Mass manipulation, something that you feel could only be heard in a post-apocalyptic horror film. How people are being manipulated by machinery and the like to stay in line while their tyrant rulers keep their iron grip on them. It is odd to say that stuff like this is happening now. While propaganda has always been used, many people see it something like posters saying to support our troops or very racist and negative things about the country we are going to war with. That’s another thing, people tend to think of propaganda as something that only happens in times of war. While, it happens whenever, in times of peace, in times of internal conflict, something as small as an election. We are unwarily taken in propaganda among all the other things we see as we go about our day.

    Does that mean that the internet and social media is a terrible thing? Of course not! It just shows how easily exploitable they can be. This does not mean that technology itself is something to be feared or put into the trash. This just means that we as people need to look more into things as we come across them. Such as if a source is reliable if it is not biased. As well as laws that should be made to stop this. Yet it seems that laws are behind the times of the internet, making it tricky to figure out how these things should be handled.

    Including businesses that practice with these bots that manipulate or are used to exploit people. Such as Facebook acknowledging that 470 accounts on their site are nothing more but false identities used for the election. Would companies such as Facebook need to ban these bots and false identities? Would other companies need to find ways to see if those accounts being made are genuine people, or are just fake to further a purpose that is going on in a certain country or area? It seems now that laws to curtail these worries of online manipulation should be made if they have not and if they are, what will it lead to the big social media sites that have these bots? That is a question that only time can answer from these investigations as more is revealed.

  21. Katie B February 2, 2018 at 10:56 pm #

    We all know how powerful social media is, people are on it all the time for news, gossip, friends, family, etc. This article didn’t surprise me at all. When you first hear about it you get baffled, how could Russia tamper with the US elections? How is that possible? But then you think about it and realize we are at that stage where being online is the new battle ground. Wars are being fought online and in secret. The article says, “China devotes more people to the elimination and manipulation of content on social networks than to its huge army,” this proves that the next war isn’t nuclear, it’s through cyberspace.
    These trolls and bots have been around for a while. Great examples on where to find them would be Reddit, Tumblr, and YouTube. Their main goal is to get a reaction from people, good or bad depending on what they want to accomplish. Social media is a feeding ground for them and because you can’t see them face to face people think they can put whatever online because of it. Bots and trolls have these fake accounts that can’t be traced back to them so they get away with more than a normal person would.

  22. Patrick Day February 6, 2018 at 5:26 pm #

    Social media has become a great tool to view what is happening throughout the world without having to leave your own home. There are many positive things that social media has brought to society such as chatting with friends, raising awareness of cancers and rare diseases, and show to the world what you are eating for dinner. There are also many negative things that has come from them and they are getting more manipulative as more people become dependent on social media. Just like what Dans has mentioned in his article, “Weapons of Mass Manipulation” the United States should be concerned if the entire election could have been manipulated by Russia for their own benefit that Trump has good relations with them. If Russia has the capability to pull that off, then the United States could be nothing more than Russia’s puppet since Russia can take advantage that the majority of citizens are dependent on in their lives. Even though that story may or may not be true about our election, Trump was also to manipulate social media to help him gain an advantage during the race. Trump was able to catch on that the demographics were beginning to change from the voters and that was more people were using social media to see what is happening in the politics world rather than looking up articles or news. Just like what Nicolas has mentioned in his comment, Trump can send a message on big social media applications such as Twitter or Instagram and millions of people will be able to view what he has said instantly. There can be many positive things that can be viewed by the world instantly but there are also bad things that can do that as well. Many people say that social media is a great way to raise awareness about terrorism even though I believe that it actually helps fuel terrorism within the United States. Many people will be paranoid to see terrorist threaten the United States through a video even though they are on the other side of the world. The biggest weapon that a terrorist can acquire is mass media since their overall goal is to terrorize as many people as they possibly could and they are able to manipulate that through the power of social media. The more dependent people throughout the world become on social media, the more likely that the people can easily be manipulated into doing something good or bad.

  23. Daniel Schreier February 7, 2018 at 9:44 pm #

    Mass Manipulation exists in society since ancient times, in instance, during Middle Age, inside the feuds; the feud lord could manipulate hundreds, or even, thousands of servants into doing pretty much whatever he wanted. Surely, some rules and norms existed, however; they did not do much to protect the people that needed the most. Another huge example, is how Catholic Church convinced and manipulated its followers to pay money and do work so they could have a place in heaven after they passed away. Some one thousand years later, mass manipulation still is a big thing, however; much more trough social media now, but what hasn’t changed is the fact that the government still presents a huge role on this manipulation. For example, in my home country, Brazil, a couple of years ago, a huge rumor started between people from many states, saying that an income distribution program, named “Bolsa Familia”, would end, and if people didn’t go to the bank and withdrew the last installment of the benefit, they wouldn’t receive the money. Since millions of people rely on this money in order to provide for their families, millions went to the Federal State Bank to get their money, which generated a chaos in all bank agencies for a couple of days. The chaos was so huge, that police and army were called to maintain the order and avoid destruction in the bank agencies. Only two days after, the government said this rumor was not true, and thus, the program was being normally operated. But it was too late. After it was confirmed this was a rumor, the Federal Police launched an investigation, and arrested two people, which after pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and it was over. Still, this created a huge problem for the Brazilian government. Furthermore, another huge situation was the Russia interference in Donald Trump being elected, which is not completely accurate what exactly happened, but it is proved that it had an interference. Although the case is still being investigated, this proves that manipulation can affect anything, even such a big event as the election for President of The United States. Similarly, mass manipulation occurs even in the most “innocent” context, and YouTube has played a huge role for this to happen. After the “YouTubers” generation started, they had become huge influencers of people, especially teenagers, dictating new trends and behaviors, which their followers immediately started to reproduce. It is not such surprise we call them “Digital Influencers”, and their influence is skyrocketing, which is not necessarily bad, but as we seen before, mass manipulation is not a good thing, and who knows what the next YouTuber will make its fans do…

  24. Luis F Gonzalez Jr February 14, 2018 at 3:48 pm #

    Social media and in general all media have grown in power. They can easily sway a crowd to one end of the spectrum or to the other. They misinform us by capturing our attentions with misleading titles and facts. They mainly try to attract our attention and at times fill us with their bias. One current issue, pertaining to politics, is that media is aligned with certain views and report the news from a certain perspective. That initially does not make it fake news but the comments uttered and spoken are what deters certain viewers from actual facts to not so real facts. Most people have the tendency to believe what they hear on the television, radio, etc. because the sole purpose of news reporting is to tell the “real story”. We indulge in the idea that they must be right and conclude that they need to think and/or react in that way. This is an amateur version of brainwashing or as the article mentioned it as has a similar aspect of “George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, fabricating an alternative reality for the rest of the population, eliminating anonymous, critical or “unacceptable” comment, inserting praise for the government on forums, networks and newspapers using multiple accounts to simulate widespread support.”

    A current example is how the Russians are no longer hacking but rather “trying to focus on what are known as influence operations—using social media and other platforms to spread favorable messages—not hacking.” Russia has moved on from tampering voting ballots and adapted to a more effective method “focused on information types of warfare.” This is a very serious issue because this is how people are mostly persuaded. To put it into perspective, a bit worrying, is how President Trump is persuaded by his favorite media source, Fox News. He tweeted out, “was @foxandfriends just named the most influential shows in news? You deserve it- three great people! The many Fake News Hate Shows should study their formula for success!” The President has been caught tweeting about certain national crisis news after the show does their bit on the event. This is good and bad, but mainly bad. The president should not be supporting any news outlet and should be getting his intelligence straight from federal sources not TV. He cannot be informed mainly from a news source because they are liable to biased influences. Also, they are not as verified as the resources the government has, they could easily be persuaded to report something totally wrong just to make you believe in it.

    Overall, media platform have and are continuously growing in influence. They cannot be monitored because of our rights but I feel they need to be regulated a little. That also raises the question of how much is a little bit for the government. Once they have the authority to monitor and regulate what is said and shown in media, it could potentially blind us from receiving both sides of the story such as what is happening in China and Russia.



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