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Pseudoscience is taking over social media with fake news and putting us all at risk

New research highlights the key role social media use plays in spreading information that misleads people into thinking it's science. The scientists and those who support them need to be more active in developing creative and persuasive ways to communicate their findings. But more importantly, we should be concerned about the effects that maliciously disseminated scientific misinformation can have on our behavior, individually and as a society. By Santosh Vijaykumar, Senior Research Fellow in Digital Health at Northumbria University, Newcastle

Editor's note: When the article was prepared for publication on the website, it was published in YAHOO NEWS An FBI document that describes conspiracy theories circulating on the Internet as a domestic terrorist threat, no less than that. This is after several cases of violent events carried out by the believers of these theories. The document specifically mentions QAnon - a conspiracy theory according to which the DEEP STATE is working to depose President Trump and harm his supporters and Pizza-Gate, the theory according to a pedophile network that includes people close to candidate Hillary Clinton operated from a basement in a pizzeria in Washington (which actually doesn't even have a basement), and there was even a person who went there Especially with a weapon to free the kidnapped children, and even shot him but didn't hit anyone, and turned himself in to the police. (And thanks to the Seventh Eye for the reference to this article)

Climate change denial. Illustration: shutterstock
Climate change denial. Illustration: shutterstock

Pseudoscience is taking over social media and putting us all at risk

By Santosh Vijaykumar, Senior Research Fellow in Digital Health at Northumbria University, Newcastle. Translation: Avi Blizovsky
Santosh Vijaykumar receives funding from WhatsApp to study how adults deal with misinformation spread online during infectious disease outbreaks.

Search "climate change" on YouTube and it won't be long before you find a video denying its existence. In fact, when it comes to shaping the online discourse around climate change, new research suggests that deniers and conspiracy theorists may gain an advantage over those who believe in the science. The researchers found evidence that most YouTube videos about climate change contradict the scientific consensus that it is primarily caused by human activity.

New research highlights the key role social media use plays in spreading information that misleads people into thinking it's science. The scientists and those who support them need to be more active in developing creative and persuasive ways to communicate their findings. But more importantly, we should be concerned about the effects that maliciously disseminated scientific misinformation can have on our behavior, individually and as a society.

The recent study by Joachim Alger of RWTH Aachen University in Germany analyzed the content of a random sample of 200 YouTube videos related to climate change. He found that more than half (107) either denied that climate change was caused by humans or claimed that climate change was a conspiracy.

The videos spreading the conspiracy theories received the highest number of views, and these used terms such as "climate engineering" to make their claims appear to have a scientific basis, when in fact they did not.

Misinformation in health

Climate change is not the only area where we see a trend of misinformation beating science by every measure. Take for example an issue like infectious diseases, and perhaps the most well-known example is VHT - mumps-rubella-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Despite large amounts of information online about the safety of the vaccine - false claims that it has harmful effects have spread widely and resulted in a drop in the number of people getting vaccinated in many countries around the world.

From time to time new theories are also invented. In May 2018, an outbreak of the Nipah virus occurred, which ultimately claimed the lives of 17 residents of the southern Indian state of Kerala. A letter allegedly written by the district's medical officer in which it is claimed that Nipah is spread by eating chicken meat has spread on social media. In reality, the scientifically based opinion is that the fruit bat is the host of the virus. As the unsubstantiated rumor went viral on WhatsApp in Kerala and neighboring states like Tamil Nadu, consumers became wary of consuming chicken, causing a dent in the revenue of poultry traders.

The effect of the spread of misinformation surrounding the MMR vaccine and Nipah virus on human behavior should not be surprising because we know that our memory is not absolute and it is sometimes possible to replace knowledge of the original facts with new, false facts. We also know that conspiracy theories have a powerful appeal as they can help people make sense of events or issues they feel they have no control over. The main characteristic of conspiracy theories is that it is precisely the lack of evidence that strengthens the theory [if the government is silent, it means that the green rabbits are responsible for the flooding in Gush Dan in the winter. This is what allows their survival for such a long time and here is the source of their magic.

This problem is made even more complex by the personalization algorithms that underpin social media. These tend to feed us content that matches our beliefs and click patterns, helping to reinforce receiving the wrong information. A climate change skeptic may receive an increasing stream of content denying it is caused by humans, making them less likely to take personal action or vote for candidates who will address the issue.

Further rapid advances in digital technologies will also ensure that misinformation arrives in unpredictable formats and varying levels of sophistication. Duplicating a clerk's letterhead or strategically using keywords to work online search engines is the tip of the iceberg. The emergence of developments related to artificial intelligence such as DeepFakes - highly realistic video clips - may make it much more difficult to identify false information.
So how do we deal with this problem? The challenge is intensified by the fact that only providing scientific information strengthens the opposition of those who believe in conspiracy theories, we must overcome opposition from people's ideological beliefs and biases.

Social media companies are trying to develop institutional mechanisms to contain the spread of misinformation. In response to the new study, a YouTube spokesperson said: "Since this study was conducted in 2018, we have made hundreds of changes to our platform and the results of this study do not accurately reflect the way YouTube works today... These changes have already reduced views from misinformation recommendations by 50% in the US" B".

Other companies recruited fact-checkers in large numbers, awarded research grants to study misinformation to academics (as I did), and blocked search terms for topics where misinformation could cause health effects.

But the continued prominence of scientific misinformation on social media suggests that these measures are not enough. As a result, governments around the world are taking action, from passing legislation to restricting the internet.

Scientists should be involved

Another possible solution could be to sharpen people's ability to think critically so that they can distinguish between scientific information and conspiracy theories. For example, a district in Kerala has launched a data literacy initiative in nearly 150 public schools that seeks to empower children with the skills to differentiate between authentic and fake information. Although this is just the beginning, there is already anecdotal evidence that it can make a difference.

Scientists also need to be more involved in the fight to make sure their work isn't dismissed or misused, as is the case with terms like "climate engineering" being hijacked by YouTube climate change deniers. Conspiracy theories are built on challenging certainties - however fake they may be - while uncertainty is inherent in the scientific process. But in the case of the scientific consensus on climate change, with up to 99% of climate scientists agreeing that humans are responsible for the changes, we have something as close to certainty as science can get.

Scientists should leverage the agreement to the maximum and mediate their work to the public through innovative and persuasive strategies. including creating their own social media not only to change beliefs but also to influence behaviors. Otherwise, their voices, however highly credible, will continue to be drowned out by the frequency and vehemence of content produced by people devoid of concrete evidence.

To the article on THE CONVERSATION website

More of the topic in Hayadan:

25 תגובות

  1. It's hard to believe, but mathematics is the name of a religion

    It is a scientific religion, because it deals with quantities and numbers.
    The non-scientific religion deals with qualities such as faith, love and hope, which do not connect with quantities and numbers.

    The believers appear in the scientific religion, and also in the non-scientific religion.
    The believers of the scientific religion are convinced that they have real knowledge of reason and logic,
    which can be presented quantitatively and with the help of numbers.
    And the believers of the non-scientific religion, are convinced that they bring the gospel of love and hope, which can be presented with the help of words.

    Scientific religion had to invent a language for itself.
    The name of the language...the language of numbers
    This language is based on choosing a line scribble that looks like this 1 and it is supposed to express a quantity that is not perceived by the senses.
    This line drawing 1 was given the name …number

    How does scribble a line with such a simple shape 1 suddenly express a quantity that is not perceived by the senses? And how will a simple person understand what is a quantity that is not perceived by the senses?

    The scientific religion says that a person simply does not need to understand, because understanding belongs to the believers of the scientific religion, known as mathematicians.

    A simple person should recite that this line scribble 1 expresses an aerial quantity according to an agreement, and this line scribble 1 has also been granted a name and is…

    After these things - when the common man began to recite what needed to be recited - the scientific religion expanded its language, and it created a series of infinite numbers greater than 1, and a series of infinite numbers less than 1
    There is no innovation in this expansion, and all the numbers created express only ethereal quantities that are not perceived by the senses, either greater than 1 or less than 1

    This is how the language of scientific religion was created, and it is a language of ethereal quantities, the words of which are numbers.

    In the language of scientific religion, there is no beauty and no anger, no hate and no love, no pain, and no pleasure, and this is only a language of ethereal quantities, which are not perceived by the human senses.
    The name of the language is the language of numbers, and it is understood by virtuous individuals who have true knowledge, and they are the mathematicians inclined to reason and logic,

    After the mathematicians created a language for themselves, they began to investigate it in depth from every possible direction. It was a pure investigation out of interest and curiosity, and it had nothing to do with the physical reality in which man is immersed.

    At the beginning of their journey, the mathematicians were engaged in the study of the numbers representing ethereal quantities, and were satisfied with that. The mathematicians studied the numbers in the way of pure reason and pure logic, because they believed that reason and pure logic would lead them to a wonderful truth contained in numbers.

    It must be emphasized that the mathematicians themselves determined what is pure logic and what is pure reason, and therefore they presented the investigation of numbers as a logical conceptual structure in which there are no mistakes, and it is impossible for there to be any mistakes.

    But there came a point when the mathematicians went beyond the investigation of numbers, and they moved to the investigation of the geometric field, with the help of numbers.
    The investigation of the geometric domain was based on ideas tested with pure logic and reason, and of course this investigation was presented with numbers.

    It should be noted that the mathematicians never used a natural review mechanism that exists in reality on its own, and mathematics checked itself, solely on its own.
    Therefore, the possibility of a mistake was inevitably created here, which cannot be corrected.

    And why is there no option to correct an error? Because mathematics has determined in advance "that it itself is a logical conceptual structure in which there are no mistakes"
    Such a conceptual structure is the characteristic of a religion that is confident in the righteousness of its path.

    Therefore, mathematics by its very nature is a religion, except that it is a scientific religion that deals with ethereal quantities and numbers.

    In contrast to the mathematicians who deal with ethereal quantities and numbers, stand the physicists who deal with tangible quantities and numbers.
    Physicists also have their own research ideas, and they have found the way to "dismiss false information" nested within their ideas.
    Physicists always put their ideas to the test of the practical experiment, conducted in natural physical reality.
    An innovative practical experiment can invalidate a physical theory that has been accepted for many years, and in its place will come without hesitation a new theory.

    Therefore, it is no wonder that physics as a practical science is constantly changing, and following the changes it improves in understanding reality, and reaches wonderful practical achievements, which are currently on the border of science fiction.

    On the other hand, mathematics is a theoretical science that is full of lofty ideas, and there are no actions in it. And since there are no actions in it, mathematics does not have the possibility of the physicists, to reject false mathematical information by means of a practical experiment.

    At the beginning of the path of mathematics, the issue of false information was not at all discussed, because mathematics studied in a completely pure way the invention of numbers.
    False news appeared in mathematics, when it entered the geometric field.

    Mathematics established that the perimeter of a polygon that blocks a circle is always greater than the perimeter of the circle. She also determined that a single number whose value is 3.14 is what allows the transition between the diameter of each circle (small or large) to the length of its circumference.

    These are two false statements, and it is possible to eliminate them from mathematics, only in the way of the physicists, that is, in the way of an actual practical experiment.
    Such a way was immediately rejected by the mathematicians, because they determined that it is only possible to talk with them through reason and logic, and there is no point or need to propose a practical experiment.
    Therefore, mathematics itself prevents any possibility of removing false knowledge from it.

    Mathematics also worked in the geometric field of curved lines with the help of Newton and Leibniz's calculus, and this activity also contains false information. Mathematics also invented false numbers that cannot be written down, such as the root of 2

    These falsehoods have been within mathematics for many years, and mathematics has not
    could get rid of it, since it has no way to get rid of false news.
    As soon as mathematics determined the existence of a geometric idea, it had already passed the test of the mathematicians' reason and logic, and therefore it would remain forever within mathematics,

    Now it is clear why mathematics is frozen and does not change and develop like physics,
    And why false news can nest in it for hundreds of years.
    The stagnation is rooted in the nature of mathematics, because it does not have the practical experimental test that exists only in physics, and is what brings about development and changes.

    It goes without saying that the mathematicians will not be able to get rid of their false information, and for this purpose the external help of physicists, who will conduct precise practical experiments in the geometric field, is needed.

    But there was a field of mathematics that was always free of false information.
    The field of mathematics in which there is no false information is the field of the invention of numbers, where one, two, three, and so on are counted.
    This is exactly the field where the computers capable of counting quickly operate.

    A. Asbar

  2. Is the earth flat a lie? Is there any scientific proof that the world is a ball that rotates around itself and around the sun? Is the curvature of the earth real? When you can easily see objects beyond the "curve" with advanced zoom cameras. Is the vanishing point in the perspective of the view the one that limits the ability to see far in relation to the sea level? Why is the flight route from Sydney to South Africa via Dubai? Is it true that the earth is flat like a plate with a dome (sky) above it that cannot be crossed and all the heavenly bodies move around the flat earth. You can see the map of the flat country with the symbol of the United Nations.

  3. I have a question:
    No one denies that most of the people in power lack education or knowledge and usually got there with the help of connections and associates. No one denies that today's degree can be bought with money and that an organization should be invented whose entire purpose is to check the reliability of degrees and education of senior government officials and senior investigators (including checking for copies and forgeries), in fact I regularly meet academics who tell me about how they buy articles online and only change Small things in them so they don't look identical or copied and then submit the articles to get the coveted title.

    So if that's the case, why should the word of the scientists or senior officials have any weight?
    When it was proven that the earth is round, they wanted to burn anyone who said that, that's a fact
    So why would the situation be different today?
    Today we live in a world where a scientist has an interest in inventing a lie to make him millions, instead of working hard and finding truth in science, politicians will stick knives in the back for money, instead of caring for citizens, doctors will abuse patients just because they don't have the strength and because they just need a few years of internship and then They run away abroad anyway (again, for money)

    In addition, most conspiracies are run by very smart people, who work hard to provide evidence in the form of links to scientific articles, and even quote from them

  4. To Mr. Elaz
    - Science says that knowledge is power. More power can have negative consequences especially if it is used in the hands of madmen - who usually come to power through lies.
    - Without science, about 40% of babies born alive died by the age of 5. Since 1880, life expectancy has increased considerably - thanks to microbiology. Those who do not want science - are welcome to return to the period before this. As above without growing food
    - Science can cause problems - especially when there is a culture and politics that are disconnected from science and go against it - like climate denial, like the race theory of the Nazis and like Stalin's denial of biology.
    - Science is a way to strive for truth. To find out more - an important thing is to manage the company in a responsible and moral way - but it will not progress by lies or fear of the truth

  5. Yehuda, I recommend that you publish articles in the scientific literature, where there is peer review and show that your opinion is correct and not those who think otherwise. No one is sure that there is dark matter, etc. - it's just a hypothesis. So far she has no confirmations. On the other hand, the theory of global warming has received quite a few confirmations since the 70s, among others:
    - The warming trend itself
    – Faster warming of the poles
    - Faster warming of the winters.
    - Cold of the upper part of the atmosphere.

  6. Why go far - here are 3 famous conspiracy theories that caused major disasters -
    - Blood plots - Jews prepare unleavened bread for Passover from children's blood - has existed for 1000 years, denials by priests and churches did not help. Due to these plots hundreds and maybe thousands of Jews were slaughtered in the world.
    - The Jews as a knife in the nation's back - Germany 1918 - According to this story, the Jews are the ones who caused Germany to lose in the First World War. The fact that thousands of Jews died as soldiers in the German army did not help. The counter propaganda activity of Jewish organizations did not help. This remained and helped the Nazis rise to power.
    - The Protocols of the Elders of Zion - helped the rise of Nazism and the Nazis' theories against Jews (as if they control both capitalism and socialism) - contributed to the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.

    Conspiracy theories are a very dangerous thing. And it's easy to spread them - especially to people who don't know science, or people who don't know that you need to look at evidence from both sides. In conspiracy theories, one-sided information is brought and any contrary information is said to be someone who is part of the conspiracy. Another characteristic is that there is no definite claim (who did what and where) but general claims that are difficult to refute.

  7. Policing and computer censorship promotes security for a fascist regime remember the Ethiopian protests.

  8. Father, it is not about spreading ideas that are not true but about not trying to silence them with aggressive means. The practice of silencing opinions causes a lot of damage, and among other things publicly strengthens the conspiracy theories that we wanted to weaken.

    I'm in favor of showing calm towards nonsense, making an effort to answer commenters' claims matter-of-factly without getting dragged into an endless debate, and making sure to be precise in writing so that we don't get caught making stupid mistakes (like someone who wrote that the sea level rises 10 meters in 30 years).

  9. What happened? You thought people were less evolved creatures, eh? Even people who are not "scientists" may create public opinion. The only thing that science has brought upon us is destruction, destruction, evil, death, wars, waste of resources, exploitation of people and much more of this....
    Life itself is a completely organic process. What did you think there? To create a new world in the name of science, and then complain that there is a population explosion, and man is to blame?
    Did you want a promotion? You got it! Now face it!

    I suggest you focus on a newer phenomenon that science invented. Kabbalah and aliens.
    This is how it is when science becomes religion.

  10. And what science is not backed by this?
    Science costs a lot of money. Those who finance the esteemed institution want results that suit them. Nobody pays for pure science that doesn't actually exist. Climate engineering is proven and is even taught in respectable universities.
    Another superficial and trending article

    Climate engineering is actually happening

  11. Indeed, the web is full of inaccurate and unreliable information, in my opinion the mainstream newspapers also cooperate and present trending articles (depending on location, sex, religion, age, etc.) meaning that everyone receives slightly different articles depending on the algorithms designed to learn about us as much as possible and then influence us.
    But the fact that there is a consensus about climate change does not mean that other opinions do not need to be presented...

  12. to load
    What you say about me is exactly what is said about anyone who is not in the scientific consensus
    ” Your assumptions are wrong. You are using the math of a high school student when your very high level math is required. Your theories have no legs. They are scraps and worthless. You don't understand or don't want to understand it. You live in denial.” End quote.
    I was present at Prof. Shabib's lecture that he agrees with the phenomenon of global warming but does not think that the main culprit is human activity. A lecture that was well supported. The claim was that the eruption of one large volcano on Earth adds much more problematic gases than all human activity in several years. In addition, he was angry that the global warming people do not tell the exact way in which they use their determinations. A persuasive lecture.
    And I agree with commenter Sigi's opinion, I am also against any scientific censorship.
    And as for the "nonsense" I wrote, I am willing to bet with anyone who wants the earth to make one full revolution around its axis in less than twenty-four hours! And regarding the speed of light, there is no proof that the speed is constant. The Michelson Morley experiment did not prove this. Willing to bet on that too!
    So please respond gently. It's just science.
    Good Day
    Sabdarmish Yehuda

  13. The day they bring the research that will prove through a double-blind placebo experiment (like any other drug)
    That vaccines are safe so we will all feel safer, until then there is room for criticism and skepticism.
    Today there is not a single vaccine in Israel that has passed full safety tests as I mentioned, this is an unequivocal fact.

  14. interesting..
    (So ​​you are actually proposing a kind of censorship and thought police...)

  15. interesting..
    (So ​​you are actually proposing a kind of censorship and thought police...)

  16. The hatred of (non-scientific) criticism exists in all human beings, including of course in the green religion of the guild of many scientists, who have made a living from their attempts to prove that the earth is warming and filling with carbon dioxide, mainly because of the actions of humanity, and therefore humanity will be destroyed! The global left that advocates this, as a continuation of its Russian and Bolshevik origins (who hospitalized opponents of the regime, as a method, in insane asylums) dictators, creates obfuscation (they are crazy, extremist, delusional) disinformation, and fake news for anyone who opposes this flawed theory. And of course hides the many flaws in the annihilation theory, because of the warming, such as: a. In the last hundred years the average temperature has only increased by 1 degree b. The cyclical increase in solar radiation is not emphasized. third. The huge benefit to humanity as a result, the plants whose conditions of existence have improved, give increased crops that reduce world hunger. D. The warming that reduces the area of ​​the ice + the carbon dioxide that proliferates, reduces the amount of heat (of the sun) that escapes back from the Earth into space, and thus distances the cyclical "ice age" that is about to return, and will kill billions of people with cold and hunger, and this is a fact that ( Unlike death from global warming) there is no debate!!!

  17. It's easy to ask scientists to express an opinion but they need public support for it. For example - 99.9% of scientists from the field of life sciences think that there is an obligation to experiment on animals, mainly for drug development. If they express their opinion, a loud and violent little rant could hurt their family members. If you give me one public figure who will back them up, I will find you the scientists who will express an opinion.

  18. Yehuda
    Your problem is different. Your assumptions are wrong. You are using the math of a high school student when your very high level math is required. Your theories have no legs. They are scraps and worthless. You don't understand or don't want to understand it. You are living in denial.

  19. Yehuda
    Your problem is different and no less serious. Your assumptions are wrong, you are using the math of a high school student, when very advanced math is required, and you don't have it. You build towers in the air and you don't understand it or you don't want to understand it. All your theories belong in the dustbin.

  20. What do the science readers recommend me? I believe that there is no dark matter, and there is no dark energy, that the speed of light changes over time, that the earth makes a complete revolution in 23 hours and fifty-six minutes and not in twenty-four hours, and that the gravitation formula does not work according to the square of the distance, and that the moon moves away from the earth only about twenty-five "m per year and not thirty-eight and in addition there is friction in movement in space (the Pioneer anomaly). and more.
    Should I express my opinions or do I have no right to do so?
    We must not forget that the scientific development was made mainly by people who thought differently.
    Please respond gently
    Sabdarmish Yehuda

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