Tuesday, October 10, 2023

X (Formerly Twitter) and Social Media - Misinformation Is A Way Of Life and It'll Get A Lot Worse But There Is A Solution

I want to begin with the best advice I can offer when it comes to using social media - do not count on social media to provide you with accurate information. Having said that, there are a number of uses for social media that can be productive and even informative but you should not use it as a source of up to date information. Unless you're the guy on the ground or the person provide you with information on the other end is some you trust with your life, I would take nearly everything we consume on Facebook, X, or any other social media with a big bag of salt.

I am sure by now, we all know what is going on in Israel. Thousands dead, hostages, and a conflict that threats to erupt into a regional war instigated by very well coordinated terror attack by Hamas. I generally keep away from news on weekends but this caught my eyes. I went to Apple News, Google News, CNN, and Wikipedia to find out more what just happened. I then went to X to see what people are saying about it. 

I saw a video of a helicopter being shot down by a shoulder mounted missile, like the Stinger. One one tweet, the caption said it was a Hamas attack on an IDF helicopter. In another tweet with the same video, it was a Hamas helicopter (I did not know Hamas had attack helicopters). Apparently, while it looked realistic, it was from a video game. I just did a quiet look at X. A whole lot of misinformation. 

I did some research and here are suggestions on dealing with social media:
  • If the headline or the tweet seems inflammatory, it likely include misinformation. It is meant to engage your emotions one way or another.
  • A lot of posts or tweets will have the same photo or wording. Bots? I could never tell what is real or which are generated by bots. Perhaps Elon Musk is correct and X should charge users to cut out bots.
  • If you read something on social media, verify, verify,verify. If it is only available in one place, it probably isn't real.
  • Know yourself - your biases, political leanings, and pre-conditioning. You will likely find tweets you that agree with your views more compelling than others even if it could contain misinformation.
  • Verify, verify, verify - check the sources and check the facts.
Lately, I have been doing some house cleaning with my Twitter account. Getting rid of dead accounts, accounts that no longer send me tweets I am interested in, and accounts that I already get articles from newsletters or directly from websites.

I still find X very useful for other things:
  • I read sports tweets
  • Funny videos
  • I like science tweets
  • There are still reputable accounts on X. Plenty. Some I am interested in. Others, not so much. I usually follow accounts that provide useful information. I recently watched a video on X on how to make French toast and sourdough bread. My bread was not so successful (I'll have to try again) but my French toast wasn't bad.
  • I have been using X to look for information on how people are using AI. I have yet to find good information elsewhere for this.
One of the issues that the news media is focusing on is the explosion of misinformation just before the 2024 general election in the United States. I have yet to make up my mind on who I am voting for (though I know who I will not be voting for - this is a simple one and I think a lot of voters are in the same situation). I have made a general effort to avoid political tweets because of the biases and just awesome personal attacks that have nothing to do with policies. It will get worse. I do not see any great effort to curtail political and attack tweets.

The only solution I have, and it's a perfect one, is to avoid posts has all the profiles of being misinformation. Almost every social media has a way for you to let them know when something that appears on your feed is of no value or interest to you. Let them know what you do not want to see. I think that is one of the best tools we have available. Tell Facebook or X enough time that you don't care for misinformation or tweets/posts that are of no interest to you, less of those will appear on your feed.

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