How Social Media is Used to Influence and Manipulate People’s Decisions

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Courtesy of the New York Post

This is one example of the many topics the media chooses to censor. With everything being censored, it makes us wonder how much is truly being hidden from us.

Kylie de Best, Section Editor

Social media is a big part of our lives. We use it almost daily to find news, information, or interests in certain topics. When going on social media, we can easily become influenced by seeing our favorite celebrity wearing a certain outfit or making a certain decision, making us want to be like them. The algorithm of social media also plays a role in influencing us, as what we typically see changes our point of view more often. Especially during the election, social media has played a huge role in influencing people who to vote for, sometimes in biased ways that inaccurately harm the other side.

One way they have been influencing people is by spreading false information. False information is spread six times as fast as true information, and with the simplicity of posting on social media, this information can easily spread to millions of people in a short amount of time (The Social Dilemma). Though this news is false, the convincing words and “quotes” they have gotten from the person can easily trick people into thinking they have found accurate information. A good way to spot false information is by seeing if it sounds too unreasonable to be true, if it isn’t backed up by multiple sources, or have primary sources of evidence such as a copy of an email.

Additionally, when people see something that is “fact-checked”, even though the information they are seeing is labeled as false, sometimes fact checks are not monitored, as oftentimes the people making them on social media are either private companies or simply just volunteers. For example, if they felt that a riot was actually a peaceful protest, they could put that the information is false since it is something that they felt shouldn’t be on the media. At times this censors critical information and shows that false information can still be brought about even with “reliable” fact-checkers. In order to get accurate information, it is best to go to trusted websites rather than simply Instagram or Facebook, where there is a bigger chance a person just decided to say something was false out of their own opinion to influence people to think more like them.

Censoring information has been a big issue in this election, and it has recently been known that an article from the New York Post about Hunter Biden was censored for a while. In the article, it explains some of Hunter’s secret emails found on his laptop about a business deal with Ukraine. Many people tried sharing this article, but even mentioning its name would cause the message to not be sent due to how much it was censored.

In this article, it is also explained how Joe Biden was introduced to a Ukrainian businessman, evidence of this being in a thank you email. Less than eight months later after this meeting, Biden “admittedly pressured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk into getting rid of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin by threatening to withhold a $1 billion US loan guarantee during a December 2015 trip to Kiev” (New York Post). 

Despite the fact that this information could have been true, the article was still censored, as it was claimed that there wasn’t enough information to support that this was true. However, there are instances where we have seen potentially false information about Trump on social media, and much of it wasn’t fact-checked as false or censored. Due to this, the media really has been a big factor in who is voting for who, especially in swing states where each vote can bring the state closer to being Democratic or Republican. This isn’t to say that one candidate is better than the other, or that either candidate should be hated, it is just an observation many have noticed on social media. Lauryn Tran (10), who is not naïve to this issue either, says “I believe that social media is deeply influencing people’s everyday decisions as it makes us more conscious of how others view us. The media censoring information is a concerning issue as it might block out the truth from being known to the public. I feel that the prerogatives of people censoring information can be very blurred as there are various opinions on controversial topics.” This use of major companies influencing votes almost doesn’t really make it the citizen’s vote anymore, as the mix of false conflicting information and algorithmic techniques used to present only certain information to them really makes it the company’s vote.

As this issue continues to be prevalent throughout the modern days, it is important to be mindful of what you are seeing in the media compared to what else is truly going on in the world. After all, although the media seems to be a reliable source for many, it is still important to remember how fast false information can spread.