CINCINNATI — Researchers at the University of Cincinnati’s political science department recently conducted a study to find out just how easily disinformation can spread.
The group surveyed 8,500 people nationwide by showing them false information about mail-in ballots and the election. Researchers then showed them real information from secretaries of state countering those claims.
Dr. Gregory Winger, a political science assistant professor, said the disinformation was incredibly effective at reducing faith in the electoral process, and the counter info did not seem to make much of a difference.
“By the time discount to this information is out there from a secretary of state, from the Associated Press or a legitimate news source, the information environment, especially on social media, has become so polluted that it really is having a hard time resonating with the general population. And it's a very significant long-term concern,” Winger said.
And it doesn’t seem to be going away.
Social media companies are working more in 2020 than they were in 2016 to dispel rumors and unverified information, but it hasn’t been easy.
This week Twitter suspended Steve Bannon permanently for threats of violence.
The company also flagged more than a dozen tweets from President Donald Trump with the tag:
“Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.”
There were also fake accounts as reported by the Wall Street Journal in what they called a coordinated attack. At least three accounts that looked to be from the Associated Press called Michigan for Joe Biden at 1:46 p.m. on Wednesday, more than four hours before the real AP called the race. Twitter suspended the accounts.
Winger said the end game of the disinformation schemes, especially those that originate overseas, is to sow seeds of doubts in the U.S. system and governance.
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