The rise of social-media and smartphones
The creation of social-media networks and the technological breakthroughs in smartphones using highly complex chips with the boon of increased storage and memory now gives everyone their own personal computer.
On top of that. Social media networks like Facebook rose so fast and dominated the social-media network scene using specific algorithms which trades people’s interests and information for businesses or individuals to advertise and specifically target them in their advertising campaigns. Better content attracts people and will result to higher engagement rates.
You see, the ultimate goal of advertising online is to be able to create specifically crafted content that would target these people and appease their biases. Remember the keyword there ”biases”.
Online content should always always be ”biased” simply because social-media networks are built as polarizing machines that algorithmically divides different demographics and groups using their varying interests and biases.
Content marketers should be able to create shocking content that attracts and appease the people’s biases which in turn encourages them to interact with the content and most likely share it with others.
Shaping people’s biases is the key into ultimately hacking their brains
We see a lot of hacking movies where programmers press into different keys on their keyboard using specific types of software which connects and breaks into the computer network. The idea is that this may look epic on the screens but most of them are not technically accurate though.
Hackers don’t really hack computers in the first their first attempt to access or undermine the computer system or network. Simply because cracking into a well-secured encrypted network can be very tricky especially if it has a team of cyber security specialists monitoring every security triggers scanning for signs of security breach in the system. The hackers could probe for exploits especially unpatched software running in the network or anything but if the institution has it all blocked out then there’s no way for anyone to actually ever going to have access or infiltrate the system without being caught.
So the best way is to find the weakest link in the security infrastructure. And that is people.
To hack the people. The hackers themselves may need to create specific social engineering techniques such as using social-media to probe on their victims. Create content that pulls those victims in and then have them download different types of content laced with Trojan that effectively allowed hackers access to the computer network.
Shaping their biases is key. So the whole point was to create specific pages, accounts and content that lures them in and create an environment of doubt to their existing beliefs. Such as in the case of downloading email attachments. Most of these people may have already been repeatedly reminded by their managers not to download untrusted emails on their mailbox. So that instructive understanding may need to be undermine so the hackers can coerced the victim into doing exactly what they believed to be inappropriate in the first place.
How is this applied to create divisions and destroy democracies?
This technique can well also be applied in a grand grand scale. Because from here on — hackers may only need to stoke the flames and then all the information they manufactured will automatically spread virulently across different demographics.
How is this even possible? The key here is on how ”social media networks” operates. Most social media networks like Facebook for example. It operates in a way that it only ranks the type of content that you normally find relevant and engaging. So the more click ‘Like’ and engage in that content then the more you will be seeing the same type of content in the future.
What does this do anyways? How is this threatening our democracy?
This is a dangerous practice. It gives the power of publishing stories in the hands of busy users who knows nothing but click ‘Share’ or ‘Like’ all the time rather than vet on the stories if they were really fake or not. Before only traditional media has the power to actually publish well-vetted stories out from their complex editorial processes.
So people with enormous amount of money and resources could pour in huge investments in mass propaganda that churns out specifically targeted content across multiple demographics and expecting that each of them may get viral. And the easiest content that people love is something out of fiction. Something that is as close as being true but not really true.
Welcome to the age of misinformation and disinformation.
Example was the post of a popular Pro Duterte social-media influencer Sass Rogando Sasot last year.
Although, Sassot may seemed to be only poking fun of a politician like Leni Robredo but this easily attracts people and some who normally doesn’t really care about politics starts to lean sideways and engages. Many people actually believed this to be true when fellow bloggers like Thinking Pinoy published the same insinuations to undermine Leni Robredo’s credibility.
That actually worked. Leni Robredo has been attacked and maligned by many people. Her credibility was severely distorted and undermined exactly how they’ve done with De Lima.
This creates an atmosphere of Anti Leni movement to swell among st the masses and encourages them more to bully and attack her. Thus, the thought of Leni being an immoral woman permeates in many of the population.
Although, this has since been been proven as fake. These stories continues to circulate online. And many others. People continues to believe in them. Because ”Facts” does not propagate and echoes through different demographics than ‘Fake’ does. The reason being? Of course. ”Fake” appeases people’s ”Biases” and it gives them a kind of high when some fantastic out-of-this-world news story pops up on their Facebook wall.
How do we stop these type of information warfare?
It’s really is not possible to counter this threat in an haphazard morally conscious way. And let’s face it. There’s really no way you can educate as many people as you’d like since this isn’t about educating the people. But for the organizations and offices these groups concentrate their attack on.
Let’s say. We teach people to fact check. Unfortunately, facts are hard to come by these days. Especially if the government continues to monopolize information all for themselves and or releasing data that would only puts them in the positive light.
Like I said before. People were really really busy and they’re really not up to all the things that passes through their Facebook wall. There’s no incentive in checking stuff before you share them? Similar to asking people not to throw their trash in the streets rather than the designated trash bin.
And most people hinges their beliefs that the ‘Internet’ is just sort of like a play-thing where they can freely post whatever they like. Share whatever they like etc. Without fear of backslash or repercussions from the authorities.
The sure fire way of countering this threat is for Facebook to prioritize ”FACT CHECK” articles higher in the algorithm or say integrate this within Facebook’s own Announcement System. Which immediately notifies all users that this story is fake and must not be shared.
Blocking off or taking down posts won’t have any effect as these people can instantly migrate their content into different domain names.
The second supplemental strategy is to have an educational curriculum specifically designed to educate the masses about the dangers of irresponsible social-media use.
Lastly, social media platforms should work closely with news agencies in order to amplify their efforts in fighting against Fake News. Some private online influencers can even pitch in to help in this endeavor; simply this requires a lot of team work to actually win against our fight against misinformation and disinformation.