Gen-Z perseveres against misinformation

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The one thing we can allow ourselves to own is our minds and the beliefs and thoughts in them. It is a crime to let the mind be subjected to lies that are meant to play on emotions, further dividing family, friends and countries. 

In 2016, during the United States presidential election, anonymous people from foreign countries were posting inflammatory pro-Trump content because they knew it would get views, and therefore they would earn money from ads. Content with Hillary was posted as well, with sometimes her name swapped out for Trump. The content didn’t have to be well written, supported with factual evidence or even remotely true, it just had to make people feel something.

During the Myanmar coup in 2021, people used Facebook Live to make sure their relatives were safe. While watching videos of supposed “live streams”, viewers realized the videos being marketed as live, were reused footage from Vietnam and Cambodia. It was then discovered, massive private Facebook groups were sharing tips for creating fake accounts and streaming fake live content; as well as creating clickbait articles containing propaganda and lies about what was happening in Myanmar. 

A similar situation spun up on TikTok with the war in Ukraine. Many of the most viewed videos about the war were edited, old, from a different country or from video games. These videos endangered hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, unaware of what was truly going on with the war. 

A few years prior to the coup, Myanmar military and nationalist Buddhist monks used Facebook as a tool in their massive campaign against the Rohingya minority. By posting inflammatory content, the military and monks stroked an already kindling hatred against the Muslim minority by spreading misinformation. They spread rumors of the Muslims conspiring civil attacks and instilled fear into citizens so they would trust the army. The false Facebook articles led to the murder of 10,000 Rohingya men, women and children at the hands of the military. 

Meta knew the Myanmar military was using their platform as a resource in their campaign of violence. A journalist working in Myanmar flew to Meta’s headquarters to warn them and the executives chose to ignore the claim. When a UN investigation determined that Meta played a significant role in the genocide of the Rohingya Muslims, Meta sent out a lackluster press release claiming it was almost unattainable to filter misinformation. 

The flaw in Meta’s apology is that whenever a new algorithm is tested with users to see how it affects engagement, algorithms that contain the clickbaity titles of misinformation are pushed to the forefront. Meaning Meta could choose not to push fake news, but they would lose money. Meta makes its revenue by keeping users engaged, and in order to do so, the algorithm must show increasingly relevant and extreme content. 

“These American companies controlling our global information ecosystem are biased against facts, biased against journalists,” Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and journalist Maria Ressa said. “ They are by design, dividing us and radicalizing us.” 

These people were not trying to spread misinformation and were not politically motivated to post provocative content. They had just discovered a way to make good money off of controversial topics. The mindset of these tech giants like Meta and Google is that facts do not breed success, people change their minds with just a click and flock to whatever incites an emotional response. 

Luckily the European Union and the US are initiating legislation to tame the exploitation media consumers have experienced at the hands of tech giants. Personally, it is important to safeguard oneself from misinformation.

Gen-Z needs to stop making calls about situations and issues they know nothing about. Instead of taking two seconds to decide on an opinion, the generation must pause and consider if they know enough about an issue to have an opinion.  

Sources need to be looked at more thoroughly and Gen-Z needs solid, reliable news outlets with information from experts in the fields of the issues. 

Think before listening to a man in front of his green screen preaching falsities on TikTok before deciding a stance on an issue. Gen-Z cannot allow themselves to be divided and angered by big tech trying to make a quick buck by playing on their emotions.