How to Navigate Conspiracies in Social Media

How to Navigate Conspiracies in Social Media

Is it me, or are there more conspiracy theories? They are so abundant on social media. People difficulty distinguishing between what is fact and what is opinion. People I consider reasonable, intelligent, or reasonably intelligent share theories once only spoken in the shadows or the fringes. I am not the gatekeeper to either group. And although the idea of conspiracy theories is not new. The climate in which they are thriving–is. Why now? Social media has changed from the fun, meme-filled online gallery to the conspiracy-laden shit-show it is today? Conspiracies and social media intertwine as navigating COVID-19’s blurred line between fact and fiction becomes crucial for life, death, and a return to normalcy. In the news media, actions don’t speak louder than words, words speak louder than actions. Just tell the truth.

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protestors-1024x722 How to Navigate Conspiracies in Social Media
  1. Conspiracies and Social Media
  2. Viewing the World Through a Political Lens
  3. Theories
  4. Mainstream Media
  5. To Fact Check or Not
  6. Is Social Media… Media?

Demonstrators hold a Rolling Car Rally in front of Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s residence while protesting Connecticut’s stay-at-home order to combat the Coronavirus in Hartford on Monday, May 4, 2020.

Conspiracies & Social Media

Kansas & COVID-19

The latest conspiracy theories don’t exclude life and death situations like the COVID-19. So I guess it was inevitable. I currently live in Manhattan, Kansas, and the alert level is low to middling. Masks are required on Fort Riley, but optional everywhere else. Social distancing is observed, reluctantly by some. And if I had to guess, mask-wearing is split 50-50.

But Kansas is impressive because it is a relatively conservative state with a Democratic governor and pockets of liberal if not progressive attitudes. But the majority of the state is rural, and if you venture out from Manhattan or Kansas City, you will be slapped silly with Midwest mentality.

Red & Blue Lens

Like everything else in our lives, we look at a deadly virus through a red and blue lens. In the blue states, this pandemic is a public health crisis. However, in the red states, it is an economic crisis.

Ultimately,  the media tries to report fact-based news. However, there is a lot of opinionated journalism, on either side, muddying the waters. So, according to “the source”, we are either opening to quickly or dragging our feet. Forty-five is either doing a great job, or he’s willing to sacrifice us all to win in November. Or could it be a bit of both? I can tell the difference between fact and opinion. However, it appears that that is not the case for everyone.

COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories

Run from the Surreal to the Ridiculous

There is a long list of conspiracies & social media posts regarding the Coronavirus. To make it easier, I’ve included a list of the top 10. And since there is no evidence any of them are fact-based, I won’t make much of an effort to debunk them.

  1. There is no pandemic. This conclusion is ridiculous.
  2. No one has died. This conclusion is also ridiculous.
  3. Bill Gates created the virus. There is no evidence the Gates Foundation has anything to death with the transmission of this virus.
  4. 5G technology caused the virus. 5G technology is a popular culprit for conspiracy theorists. However, all evidence points to the Coronavirus being an act of natural selection.
  5. That the Coronavirus will result in the new world order, although many people will lose their lives and the economy will also suffer, there is no evidence it will lead to the end of the world.
  6. The virus is a biological weapon made in a Chinese lab. Like I said earlier, it’s an act of nature. Researchers say the virus’s backbone was not derived from a previously known virus and likely made the leap from an animal (like a bat) to humans.
  7. The virus is no worse than the flu. The truth is it’s much worse in virality, mortality, and lasting damage to the lungs and respiratory system.
  8. Ibuprofen increases the risk of catching the Coronavirus. Medical professionals debunked this hypothesis.
  9. There are supplements, vitamin C, or disinfectants that can cure it. There is no cure. Disinfectants are excellent on hard surfaces, but you should never ingest them no matter who says so.

The Mainstream Media

Free and Independent

Unfortunately, there seems to be a concentrated effort to delegitimize what has typically been called mainstream media. The label mainstream, just like the label liberal, has become a dog whistle for the right. A buzz word to a group of people who are quick to believe anything they read. Or hear Billy’s second cousin’s barber overheard in a bar. And that line between fact and fiction is blurred in news media outside the mainstream, mainly social media platforms.

Conspiracy theories are not new. However, the climate in which they are thriving –is. Why now? What has changed? COVID-19 Conspiracy theories thrive outside the fringes of society. They are debated out in the open as if they deserve real consideration out of fairness. However, what is the opposite of right, truth, or fact? Do these positions deserve an argument?

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Social Media

To Fact Check or Not

Case in point. Just as I was writing this, Twitter is fact-checking the President of the United States. Yes. Now, this issue is more timely than I thought. It’s because his lies masquerade as truth if unchecked. Forty-five continues to have an avenue where he can speak directly to his base. And he has decided that it is in his best interest to spread falsehoods, lies, and misrepresentations. His voice and his simplified rhetoric never accompany proof, truth, or perspective. Thus he is flaming the fires instead of silencing them.

For four years, this man has us held hostage because he does not believe in honest brokering. He has built (and rebuilt) businesses. And integrity, honesty, and morality play little, to no part, in his methodology. He has admitted this much himself. So why would anyone expect this to change because he was President, at the ripe old age of 73?

So I’m not looking to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for restraint. I am looking for social media to continue fact-checking and curating false and misleading statements from the President. Social media is a highway of information and no highway can operate without red lights, road markers, and cops.

Are Social Media Companies Mainstream Media?

Two days after he ripped into Twitter for fact-checking two of his tweets, the President signed an executive order out of sheer retribution. The executive will limit the legal protections enjoyed by social media companies from Constitutional/ civil rights charges.

The 1996 law protects tech companies, like Facebook and Twitter, from lawsuits, regarding content that appears on their platforms. The law does give companies the right to moderate the content or suspend accounts. Whether or not the content is removed or censored is the responsibility of the company and can not be abridged by the executive order. However, it should be no surprise that this law has is being tested, but courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of the tech companies.

Now, since Twitter has made an “editorial comment” is it considered mainstream media? Honestly, I don’t know why this question exists. It is a platform that accepts advertising dollars, moderates conversations, and prides itself on being a major distributor of news and information. So yes, my opinion is that Twitter and Facebook are both mainstream media.

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