The stunning levels of Twitter bot activity on topics related to global heating and the climate crisis is distorting the online discourse to include far more climate science denialism than it would otherwise.
An analysis of millions of tweets from around the period when Donald Trump announced the US would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement found that bots tended to applaud the president for his actions and spread misinformation about the science.
The study of Twitter bots and climate was undertaken by Brown University and has yet to be published. Bots are a type of software that can be directed to autonomously tweet, retweet, like or direct message on Twitter, under the guise of a human-fronted account.
We are not taking time to think about and examine what we are reading. We are hardly taking the time to read past the headlines. It’s having a dramatic effect on us.
We need to cultivate the capacity for deeper forms of thought and critical analysis. To do otherwise is to become susceptible to other people’s views and wishes. This is how we become less self-reliant and less able to discern what is true and what is not.
Without critical thought, whomever screams the loudest will therefore get our attention. Sleazy salespeople and fraudsters will successfully sell us snake oil and empty promises.
We do not err as a society when we innovate, but when we ignore what we disrupt or diminish while innovating. In this hinge moment between print and digital cultures, society needs to confront what is diminishing in the expert reading circuit, what our children and older students are not developing, and what we can do about it.
We know from research that the reading circuit is not given to human beings through a genetic blueprint like vision or language; it needs an environment to develop. Further, it will adapt to that environment’s requirements – from different writing systems to the characteristics of whatever medium is used. If the dominant medium advantages processes that are fast, multi-task oriented and well-suited for large volumes of information, like the current digital medium, so will the reading circuit. As UCLA psychologist Patricia Greenfield writes, the result is that less attention and time will be allocated to slower, time-demanding deep reading processes, like inference, critical analysis and empathy, all of which are indispensable to learning at any age.
Google is announcing new efforts today to support the media industry by fighting misinformation and bolstering journalism, which will live under a newly announced umbrella called the Google News Initiative. Google already offers something similar in Europe through the Digital News Initiative, but the Google News Initiative is intended to be a wider worldwide expansion of those kinds of efforts.
There are three specific goals of the Google News Initiative: highlight accurate journalism while fighting misinformation, particularly during breaking news events; help news sites continue to grow from a business perspective; and create new tools to help journalists do their jobs. Google is serious about supporting these goals, too, pledging to invest $300 million over the next three years.
Insights for a healthier, more balanced, sustainable, and meaningful life.
Every day I dive into the internet cesspool and go through a pile of news sources to extract the most fascinating stories. Curated by hand. No large media organizations. No bots. No unambiguous algorithms deciding what you get to read.
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