Disinformation. It’s easy to believe and hard to ignore. More and more we are beginning to understand how much mis/disinformation leads to socioeconomic costs and how it impacts scientific integrity. Here are a few sources/links that (I hope) helps us continue the dialogue:
1) A link to the study we published in February 2020. It is entitled The Monetization of Disinformation: the case of GMOs and was published in a special issue of the European Management Journal on The Dark Side of Social Media. The journal article but provides evidence and understanding of how misinformation impacts science and societies. We use GMOs as a case study, but this could (generally) apply to any number of issues (from farm to fork and beyond (public health issues)).
- We analyzed a dataset of 94,993 unique online articles (2009-2019) for the evaluation of various tactics that contribute to the evolving GMO narrative. Preliminary results suggest that a small group of alternative health and pro-conspiracy sites received more totals engagements on social media than sites commonly regarded as media outlets on the topic of GMOs. Other externalities observed include continued social and political controversy that surround the GMO topic, events (demonstrations, legislative initiatives, ballots, etc) as well as the growth of additional product and marketing approaches such as “non-GMO” verification.
- Figure: Total shares of GMO online articles over time (2009-2019)
- Figure: Key Events and Online Engagement (2009-2019)
- Social media has revolutionized how we connect as human beings and is a vehicle for sharing false or deceptive information (disinformation).
- Disinformation is firmly planted in the ‘attention economy’, a competitive economy where human attention is a scarce resource.
- Disinformation is used by vendors to attract readership with strategies to monetize it.
- Disinformation influences public opinion and risk perceptions and this, in turn, results in policies developed based on disinformation rather than scientific evidence.
- Disinformation has been used to problematize science, impeding innovation and affecting social license to operate across a number of sectors (science, farming and food production, etc).
- Importance of the study
- Distortion of science inappropriately raises the risk profile of good technologies which results in delays in getting socially vital products to the market (e.g., virus resistant cassava), or shelved or unrealized innovations (e.g., New Leaf potato, Calgene tomato), and even the loss of important research through vandalization of field trials.
2) This blog post from LinkedIn The bad stuff is always easier to believe: disinformation, modern ag, and societies provides useful background and links.
3) Don’t want to read the whole study? I get it and I don’t blame you! If you are a podcast lover and love the audio experience like I do, here is a SciPod summary of the paper which provides a 9 minute easy-listening overview of the paper. Profiting from Disinformation: The Case of Genetically Modified Organisms.
4) Additionally, check out this letter I wrote for Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business on disinformation and advocacy: Dis/misinformation: difficult to detect and hard to ignore.
5) Here are some @CamiDRyan Twitter threads on the topic:
- Summary of the journal article on Disinformation in the Attention Economy (with fun gifs)
- This thread – Let’s talk about celebrity and the spread of misinformation – is inspired by one of Tim’s articles entitled: “Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow made the 2010s the decade of health and wellness misinformation”.
6) Communicating Ag in an Attention Economy, Talking Biotech Podcast with Kevin Folta.
If you have any questions or comments, please reach out!
Carley, K. et al. (2020). Many Twitter Accounts Spreading COVID Falsehoods.
Caulfield, T. (2020). Twitter thread on Misinformation (includes infographics).
Evanega, S., Lynas, M., Adams, J., Smolenyak, K., & Insights, C. G. (2020). Coronavirus misinformation: quantifying sources and themes in the COVID-19 ‘infodemic’.
Institute for Strategy Dialogue (ISD) (2020). Anatomy of a Disinformation Empire: Investigating Natural News. Report.
Johnson, N. F., Velásquez, N., Restrepo, N. J., Leahy, R., Gabriel, N., El Oud, S., … & Lupu, Y. (2020). The online competition between pro-and anti-vaccination views. Nature, 1-4.
Lewandowsky, S., Cook, J., Ecker, U. K. H., Albarracín, D., Amazeen, M. A., Kendeou, P., Lombardi, D., Newman, E. J., Pennycook, G., Porter, E. Rand, D. G., Rapp, D. N., Reifler, J., Roozenbeek, J., Schmid, P., Seifert, C. M., Sinatra, G. M., Swire-Thompson, B., van der Linden, S., Vraga, E. K., Wood, T. J., Zaragoza, M. S. (2020). The Debunking Handbook 2020.
Ryan, C. D., Schaul, A. J., Butner, R., & Swarthout, J. T. (2020). Monetizing disinformation in the attention economy: The case of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). European Management Journal, 38(1), 7-18.
Van Krieken, R. (forthcoming) Economy of Attention and Attention Capital. Forthcoming in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, edited by George Ritzer & Chris Rojek