Re: Don't share links on social media

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David Wojick

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Dec 14, 2021, 5:41:50 PM12/14/21
to Gluck, Michelle, Biagioli, Mario, Glenn Hampson, The Open Scholarship Initiative
I did not say misinformation was undefinable. The term is actually pretty well defined. The problem is that there is typically no agreement on its application when it is being used in the context of political debate, each side accusing the other of misinformation. In that case the term is meaningless, a mere rhetorical device.

As for disinformation, I have no idea what that term means. It sounds like a synonym for lying, but I do not use it.

David

On Dec 14, 2021, at 5:45 PM, Gluck, Michelle <mvg...@psu.edu> wrote:



David,

 

I see your point, but the problem with treating “disinformation” as undefinable is that it concedes the absence of objective reality.  Yes, both sides use it to accuse the other of lying, but in many cases it’s possible to determine that one side actually is making false statements, and that the false statements are made with the intent of convincing others to believe “facts” that are objectively false.  (And, in many cases, to then use those false beliefs to justify actions in furtherance of an agenda that is untethered to the truth of the underlying statements.)  To reduce that to “political name-calling” is a form of false equivalence. 

 

Michelle

(speaking only for myself)

 

From: osi20...@googlegroups.com <osi20...@googlegroups.com> On Behalf Of David Wojick
Sent: Tuesday, December 14, 2021 3:59 PM
To: Biagioli, Mario <biag...@law.ucla.edu>
Cc: Glenn Hampson <gham...@nationalscience.org>; The Open Scholarship Initiative <osi20...@googlegroups.com>
Subject: Re: Don't share links on social media

 

It means there is no way to tell what it applies to. In analytic philosophy a paradigm case of conceptual confusion is when there is disagreement at to what a term applies to. In this case that lack of agreement is virtually complete. The term is universally used as a form of political name calling, where the other side disagrees completely.

 

David


On Dec 14, 2021, at 2:49 PM, Biagioli, Mario <biag...@law.ucla.edu> wrote:



David,

What do you mean by misinformation being a "perfectly incoherent" concept?

Mario

 

 

 


From: osi20...@googlegroups.com <osi20...@googlegroups.com> on behalf of David Wojick <dwo...@craigellachie.us>
Sent: Tuesday, December 14, 2021 10:22 AM
To: Glenn Hampson <gham...@nationalscience.org>
Cc: The Open Scholarship Initiative <osi20...@googlegroups.com>
Subject: Re: Don't share links on social media

 

"Don’t share links to news articles on social media." is worse than ridiculous. Most of what I do on social media is discuss news articles, including this one! Should this email, and yours, have been prohibited?

As for"misinformation" this concept is typically used in political debates, especially scientifically intensive policy debates, to attack one's opponents. It is as perfectly incoherent as concepts get.

 

I will defend to the death people's right to say flakey science. (Apologies to Voltaire.)

 

David


On Dec 14, 2021, at 12:58 PM, Glenn Hampson <gham...@nationalscience.org> wrote:



Jason’s History Club discussed a provocative idea a few days ago regarding how to curb history misinformation: Don’t share links to news articles on social media.

 

Can we extend this same thinking to research as well? At first blush, sharing less information seems utterly opposed to the goals of openness. But is it really? Making information discoverable and accessible isn’t the same as promoting flaky science on Twitter. Is there a best practices line here between openness and promotion that we should define, in the interest of nurturing openness but at the same time not nurturing misinformation?

 

From: Jason Steinhauer from History Club <jasonst...@substack.com>
Sent: Sunday, December 12, 2021 5:01 AM
To: gcha...@gmail.com
Subject: Don't share links on social media

 

In the fight against disinformation online, we have a powerful tool in our toolbox ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Don't share links on social media

In the fight against disinformation online, we have a powerful tool in our toolbox

 

This week we held six online conversations about my new book History, Disrupted: five on Clubhouse and one on Twitter Spaces. (Want to listen to the podcast recordings? Click here, here, here, here, here & here.)

In each conversation I was asked for one concrete action we can take to stem the flow of misinformation and disinformation online. My response: don’t share links to news articles on social media.

This radical suggestion was met by agreement among some participants and skepticism and pushback from others. So, let me briefly pull on this thread in this week’s newsletter, laying the groundwork for future conversations on the subject.

A major theme throughout History, Disrupted is how and why social media incentivizes certain behaviors that lead to particular outcomes. Take virality, as one example. Because the media and social media ecosystems reward virality with influence—money, fame, power, and attention—they incentivize actors with an array of agendas to purposefully design content that will go viral. In my book, I devote an entire chapter to what I call, “the viral past,” a type of online content that uses information about history to send information virally through networks as a means to advance agendas. Those who can make the past go viral get rewarded by the news media and social media with power and influence; those who cannot never have their ideas reach a wider public, even if those ideas contribute meaningfully to public understandings of history.

In conversations this week, I argued that this is a flawed incentive structure. When people are rewarded for attention and not accuracy, the tail of gaining influence online can wind up wagging the dog of trying to discern with thoughtfulness and accuracy what may actually be occurring in the world—or, in the case of history, what may have actually occurred in the past. When we incentivize clicks, views and shares, the accuracy of information can become a secondary consideration. When virality becomes a pathway to power, actors who are fighting for power have shown that they will chase it at all costs. That can include political parties, corporate media, activists, and disinformation agents.

It is us, however, who collectively make this possible. Through the mass sharing of links to political news stories on our social media pages, we create the conditions for virality and misinformation to thrive. In essence, we do the work of the political parties, media companies, and disinformation agents for them, using our networks and weak ties to spread ideas from one cluster of social media users to another. In the case of political parties and corporate media who have millions, if not billions, of dollars at their disposal, we do this work for them without receiving any compensation. What we get is an emotion: a sense of virtue, a sense of outrage, an opportunity to champion our values or beliefs, or a feeling that we’ve contributed to pressing political debates. Sharing becomes an act of self-communication, communicating to our followers and friends where we stand on a particular issue. The past two decades have shown just how animating that desire to personify our virtues can be.

So, how do we begin to nip this in the bud? We stop sharing. Without our networks and connections, political news content cannot flow from one cluster of users to another. Without our networks and connections, the engine of virality loses its steam. Here is how I articulated it to Maceo Paisley in our conversation on Clubhouse this past Friday:

Maceo: “What is a simple best practice or best practices that I could do to undermine polarization and be an upstanding social media digital citizen?”

Jason: “Don’t share links to news articles on your social media. That’s my first recommendation.”

Maceo: “Oh, this is interesting. Tell me more about that and what some of the effects of doing that would be that are negative and why not doing it is positive.”

Jason: “A thread throughout my book is the question of incentives and what incentivizes people to behave the way they do. When I came out the other side of the book, I felt strongly that the incentives we have for clicks, shares, views and sending things viral through networks are bad incentives and incentivize bad behavior.

“It’s bad for journalists because it incentivizes them to write click-bait headlines and look for the most shocking, controversial stories so that they can get views, get shares, and report back to their editors and higher-ups that their stories are doing well online.

“For the business of journalism, its put them in a position where they have to get the clicks, views and shares or else they can’t keep their doors open and can’t pay their reporters. So, I think that’s a bad incentive that leads to bad outcomes.

“I think it’s also bad for us, because what we end up doing is giving more data to the social media companies about our behaviors, our politics, what we’re interested in, what we’ll click on—and they use that to refine their algorithms to make us more addicted to the platforms that we already spend too much time on. That’s a bad outcome and a bad incentive.

“And, it creates the conditions for disinformation and misinformation campaigns to occur. Because if you can manufacture ways to get clicks, views, shares and spread things virally, you can use that to sew discord, agitate, and rile up people in ways that are unhealthy and detrimental.

“So, I don’t see a lot of good outcomes from that incentive structure. We need to find different ways to support journalism, and there are other ways we can have discussions in the public sphere that don’t involve the sharing of links.”

This approach, of course, raises numerous questions. How can we support journalists and journalism if not through sharing their articles on social media? (Ideas include subscribing to their publications, following particular reporters you appreciate, and hosting social audio discussions about items in the news on platforms such as Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces.) Can we share links to other things on our social media pages? (Yes! Recipes, cat videos, and GoFundMe pages are examples of great things to share.) Will this stop all misinformation and disinformation? (No, but it might make a dent.) What if I really want to share news and political views with my family and friends? (There are other ways).

To the last point, email continues to be a very effective way to share news articles with friends and colleagues. My mother has been emailing me news articles since 2004. She does not have social media (thank goodness), but that has not prevented her from expressing her political views or participating actively in our democracy. Other forms of discourse are possible.

This is, obviously, a larger conversation that cannot be given justice in a single newsletter. But the conversation feels particularly urgent as the contours of Web 3.0 begin to take shape. If we look back on the past twenty years of Web 2.0, we can likely agree that it did not turn out to be the panacea it was initially promised. In part, that was because we were not as intentional or thoughtful as we needed to be about how social media would work, what incentive structures were being created, and what the effects might be on history, journalism, politics and democracy. Similar halcyon visions of Web 3.0 are currently being marketed to us, a future of the Web that feels both exciting and perilous. We must be intentional about designing the right incentives into these new platforms, lest we look back in twenty years and wish that we had. A radical re-thinking and re-examining may be required. Squashing the urge to share might be one of them.


Thank you’s & shout-outs

There are many people to thank for the amazing conversations and support of History, Disrupted this week, among them:

  • Thank you to Andrew Lee and NewsNewNews for a stimulating conversation on Monday night about how future historians may write about the breaking news of today. Listen to the podcast replay on Clubhouse here.
  • Thank you to Justin Higgins and Politics + Media 101 for a rich conversation on Tuesday night about how historical misinformation spreads online. Listen to the podcast replay on Clubhouse here.
  • Thank you to Scott Monty and the Timeless and Timely podcast for a fun conversation on Wednesday afternoon on Twitter Spaces about history communication, history communicators, and expanding the diversity of voices who speak about the past. Listen to the podcast here.
  • Thank you to Dr. Sohaib Imtiaz and Human Behavior for an incisive conversation on Wednesday night on Clubhouse about how Web 3.0 and artificial intelligence will play a role in the future of history. Listen to the podcast replay on Clubhouse here.
  • Thank you to Catherine Connors, Kwasi “Amazing” Asare, Ivy Astrix, Michael Liskin and others for co-hosting History Club with me on Thursday night to celebrate the forthcoming release of History, Disrupted. Listen to the podcast replay on Clubhouse here.
  • Thank you to Maceo Paisley, Denise Hamilton, Jennifer Kashdan and Citizens of Culture for a challenging conversation on Friday afternoon on Clubhouse about social media activism and its effects on historical knowledge. Listen to the podcast replay on Clubhouse here.
  • Finally, thank you to Selena Strandberg and The Know for featuring History Club and History, Disrupted in their newsletter this week. The Know is a straightforward, nonpartisan political newsletter delivered to your inbox each day for free. Check them out at theknow.io.

Book update

For those who ordered History, Disrupted: How Social Media & the World Wide Web Have Changed the Past on Amazon, you may have received an email this week saying that your shipment has been delayed. Apparently the book is temporarily out of stock; I guess we sold more copies than they were prepared for! The publisher is aware and printing more copies. You should receive an update soon on when the book will ship.

The book is also available through Barnes & Noble and at local independent book sellers, including Lost City Books in Washington, D.C. For those in the D.C. area, we’ll be having a book launch celebration at Lost City Books on January 7, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. More information to come.

Have a good week.


History Club meets Thursdays at 10 pm ET. Want to participate? Suggest a topic for a future conversation.

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Gluck, Michelle

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Dec 14, 2021, 6:04:40 PM12/14/21
to David Wojick, Biagioli, Mario, Glenn Hampson, The Open Scholarship Initiative

The terms are largely synonymous.  False statements intended to deceive/mislead.  If there is a difference, it is one of nuance – disinformation is false statements known to be false and intended to deceive, “misinformation” is often used to include the possibility that the speaker is mistaken rather than lying, while still intending the statement to be believed and influence behavior.   

 

I respectfully disagree that the term(s) is/are meaningless in the political context just because both sides use it.  Facts do exist, and false factual statements made intentionally for political purposes are still false. 

 

I agree with you, however, that using social media but not linking to news stories doesn’t seem to be very effective.   Better to just not use social media. 

 

Regards,

 

Michelle

Mel DeSart

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Dec 14, 2021, 6:11:03 PM12/14/21
to David Wojick, Gluck, Michelle, Biagioli, Mario, Glenn Hampson, The Open Scholarship Initiative

I was recently a subject in a study being conducted this fall by a research group in the ISchool at the University of Washington, the focus of which was to:

study the way information professionals talk about or experience problems related to false and misleading information (misinformation, disinformation, etc.) in the field.

 

After I had answered the questions posed by the researcher, he then gave me a little more detail about their work, and one of the items that came up (in part because I differentiated between the two in one of my answers) was misinformation vs. disinformation.  He indicated that researchers in the field DO differentiate those two terms, and that the differentiation is an important one.  What the researcher basically said (sorry I don’t have it verbatim because this was all verbal in a Zoom session) was that:

 

Misinformation is false / misleading /out-of-context information that is spread by ignorance or because the person spreading it believes it to be true.  With misinformation there is NO INTENT to deceive.

 

Disinformation is false / misleading / out-of-context information this is spread when the individual KNOWS the information is untrue.  With disinformation there is INTENT to deceive.

 

Mel

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mel DeSart     (he/him/his)

Head, Engineering Library and Head, Mathematics Research Library

University of Washington                  

Box 352170                                        des...@uw.edu

Seattle, WA   98195-2170                  office: 206-685-8369

 

“It is not written in the stars that I will always understand what is going

on -- a truism that I often find damnably annoying."

 

                              Robert A. Heinlein, from his novel "Friday"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From: osi20...@googlegroups.com <osi20...@googlegroups.com> On Behalf Of David Wojick

Sent: Tuesday, December 14, 2021 3:41 PM
To: Gluck, Michelle <mvg...@psu.edu>

Anthony Watkinson

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Dec 15, 2021, 4:26:53 AM12/15/21
to David Wojick, Gluck, Michelle, Biagioli, Mario, Glenn Hampson, The Open Scholarship Initiative
That is so helpful Michelle. As I have written on this list before (but not recently I think) my current research involves interviewing early career researchers, some of them from as long ago 2016. Because in their specialist areas they are close to the cutting edge of science, they are much exercised with misinformation purveyed through the social media - by misinformation I mean assertion not backed up by peer reviewed research. The good news is that they do not thro up their hands in resignation but instead take the positive step of engaging in outreach particularly to the public. They aware that scientific communication is difficult but they do their best. When I suggest this reaction as a generalisation I qualify this by saying the great majority of them see it as their duty as scientists to do this. This is where you can find out recent and ongoing research: ciber-research.com/harbingers-2. I am posting very rarely these days because of immersion in coding from the approved records of the most recent interviews which is a killing thing to do day after day but does mean that I am pretty confident in the assertions I have just made


Anthony


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David Wojick

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Dec 15, 2021, 10:04:48 AM12/15/21
to Mel DeSart, Gluck, Michelle, Biagioli, Mario, Glenn Hampson, The Open Scholarship Initiative
Yes, on reflection, misinformation can be unintended. If someone mistakenly tells me the store is open until 9 and it is closed when I get there before that, I have been misinformed.

But that is not what we are seeing in the new fashion in policy debates. Rather entire reasoned positions are being called misinformation. This is done by both sides. In this case the term is being used simply as a form of disagreement. And as Wittgenstein said, a term's meaning is its use. Of course one side is likely wrong but there is no agreement which that is, so the term is being misused.

Disinformation is even worse. I have yet to see a case where it is likely true. The problem is people have a hard time accepting that their opponents honestly disagree with them, so implausible attributions of dishonesty are widespread on all sides.

I have formulated a natural law (Wojick's second law) to explain the common occurrence of disagreement. It is: The weight of evidence is relative to the observer. 

So in complex cases different reasonable people can look at the same evidence and come to opposite conclusions. We see this everywhere. My maxim is that wherever two or more are gathered together there shall be disagreement. 

Accepting disagreement turns out to be difficult. Hence the prevalence of name calling.

David

On Dec 14, 2021, at 7:11 PM, Mel DeSart <des...@uw.edu> wrote:



Joyce Ogburn

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Dec 15, 2021, 1:12:02 PM12/15/21
to Mel DeSart, David Wojick, Gluck, Michelle, Biagioli, Mario, Glenn Hampson, The Open Scholarship Initiative
Their definitions fit what I have been reading about how the two terms are being described. UNC Chapel Hill iSchool is also researching this topic, as I imagine a lot of others are doing!  

Joyce L Ogburn 
FarView Insights 


On Dec 14, 2021, at 6:11 PM, Mel DeSart <des...@uw.edu> wrote:



Mel DeSart

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Apr 4, 2022, 10:38:17 PMApr 4
to David Wojick, Biagioli, Mario, Glenn Hampson, The Open Scholarship Initiative
Re: misinformation/disinformation, I sent you the following last December, David, that both defines and distinguishes between misinformation and disinformation.  That text is very similar to what you just received from Glenn earlier this evening.  Hopefully this collectively corrects your significantly incorrect assertion about what disinformation is.

Mel


From: Mel DeSart <des...@uw.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, December 14, 2021, 3:08 PM
To: David Wojick <dwo...@craigellachie.us>; Gluck, Michelle <mvg...@psu.edu>

Cc: Biagioli, Mario <biag...@law.ucla.edu>; Glenn Hampson <gham...@nationalscience.org>; The Open Scholarship Initiative <osi20...@googlegroups.com>
Subject: RE: Don't share links on social media

David Wojick

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Apr 5, 2022, 6:33:52 AMApr 5
to Mel DeSart, Biagioli, Mario, Glenn Hampson, The Open Scholarship Initiative
I said it was asserting something you know to be false. How is that incorrect, Mel?

David

On Apr 4, 2022, at 10:38 PM, Mel DeSart <des...@uw.edu> wrote:



Mel DeSart

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Apr 5, 2022, 1:07:37 PMApr 5
to David Wojick, Biagioli, Mario, Glenn Hampson, The Open Scholarship Initiative

No David, you said

 

that is someone asserting what they do not in fact believe

 

Belief is largely irrelevant.  If what you meant by the phrase above is someone asserting as true what they know to be false, then I stand corrected.  But that’s not really what the phrase above says.

 

A politician who does not believe in the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine can still (in an effort to secure votes) tell voters that the vaccines work and that people should get vaccinated, even though they don’t actually believe that.  That is of course lying on the part of the politician, but it’s not actually spreading disinformation because what the politician is saying is true, not false, even though the politician doesn’t _believe_ it to be true.

 

Mel

David Wojick

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Apr 5, 2022, 1:41:50 PMApr 5
to Mel DeSart, Biagioli, Mario, Glenn Hampson, The Open Scholarship Initiative
I would argue on the contrary that the truth or falsity of what you say may be irrelevant. As with lying the issue is intent. If you happen to be wrong such that what you say is actually true that is still at least attempted disinformation. This sounds like an act versus content distinction. It is interesting concept analysis but perhaps a bit arcane for this venue.

But if you insist on that distinction then I can say I have never seen either real or attempted disinformation in the science intensive policy debates I track.

David

On Apr 5, 2022, at 1:07 PM, Mel DeSart <des...@uw.edu> wrote:


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