We all saw over the last 20 years how access to information through the internet quickly morphed into the proliferation of disinformation. It started with chain letters and spam, which then later evolved into hoaxes and scams. Now, disinformation is spinning stories causing divisiveness and twisting history. This webinar unpacks how misinformation came to be, the reason behind it, and ways to combat it.
Leading the discussion is Sarah Boyd, the Public Relations Manager for the Clay County, Missouri Sheriff’s Office. Before this role, she created and managed the Kansas City Missouri Police Department’s (KCPD) internationally recognized social media platforms. She presented on social media and public relations topics at international and regional conferences across the US and was named one of the International Association of Chiefs of Police 40 Under 40 in 2019.
Specifics Sarah Discussed include:
- The benefits of social media for the law enforcement and public safety field.
- The two types of misinformation that we tend to encounter in the online space – ones that originate from real people and ones from not real people actors.
- How social media’s information sharing capability can be and is being exploited by reckless and irresponsible use and inadvertently inflicts pain on others and causes issues within communities.
- Steps that agencies can take to regulate the spread of misinformation by verifying the accuracy of the story, publicly debunking the rumors and setting the record straight, and preparing for pushback from community members who believed the misinformation.
- Terminologies involved when it comes to misinformation from not-real people.
- Characteristics of bots and trolls in terms of their behavior, location, and operation.
- The reason behind the misinformation according to Dr. Gina Matthews and the strategies being employed by the bot and troll farms to facilitate this.
- Making people unhealthy as seen in the anti-vaccine campaign traced from Russia to undermine public confidence in vaccines.
- Creating distrust in authorities as observed in the Dr. Fauci memes and anti-law enforcement sentiment.
- Sowing division within society especially apparent in the race-driven sentiments on officer use of force.
- Actions agencies can take to curb the spread of misinformation from not real people by reporting to the platforms, identifying the bots themselves, pushing out accurate and verifiable facts, and encouraging media literacy among followers.
- Numerous examples were provided to demonstrate…
- How irresponsible use of social media created local problems for community members and the agencies.
- How the KCPD reined in local Facebook groups from spreading misinformation and verifying police reports first before sharing anything within their platform.
- How non-community members generate fear in different communities through misinformation on social media.
- How bots were leveraged to create societal divide by shaping the narrative surrounding elections, public health, and politics in the US and around the world.
- How Facebook and WhatsApp had a hand in facilitating ethnic violence in Sri Lanka, how blocking access to social media neutralized the violence, and how Facebook responded to all of it.
- How social media ads were specifically targeted based on individual preferences and interests which enabled echo chambers of extremism.
- How law enforcement is targeted by bots and trolls in an effort to delegitimize these entities, spread misinformation, and create societal rifts.
- How social media companies tend to respond to reports of bots, trolls, and fake accounts on their platforms.
- The different locations around the world where trolls and bots are traced to be operating in.
Questions from the webinar attendees are about:
- False information coming from law enforcement colleagues’ personal social media profiles.
- To delete or not to delete spam or hateful and vulgar comments.
- Preventing scams from spam profiles.
- Social media representatives for LE to reach out to in case of misinformation and related issues.
- Managing cry wolf situations, cases pending investigation, and impostor accounts.
- The potential impact of Elon Musk purchasing Twitter.
- How to deal with misinformation in general.
Resources and Handouts
- Handout: Further Reading
- Book Referenced: The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World by Max Fisher
- Resource Referenced: The Botometer (Indiana University)
- “I could have listened to this for hours! Social media has become such a huge part of our society, so the practicality and relevance of this training (in addition to all of the information about bots and trolls) was very eye-opening.” — Angela
- “Thank you for such a great presentation. It had clear objectives, and the speakers were both articulate and knowledgeable in their respective fields. I especially liked the inclusion of a reading list and other online resources that teach people how to spot misinformation. Thank you again for an awesome class.” — Alice
- “Sarah Boyd is a great Public Relations Manager! This webinar was full of fantastic information.” — Adrianne
- “All of the information was valuable and useful. Her presentation could have been broken up into a series. Sarah did a great job!” — Billy
- “Can’t believe that was her first webinar. Such an excellent speaker; very clear, concise, and knowledgeable.” — Cari