I learned about propaganda when I was in third grade. I was reading an American Girl book about a girl growing up during World War Two. I remember assuming that propaganda, like many other elements in the story, was a thing of the past. I remember thinking that today, now that people had access to the internet and could fact-check pretty much anything they wanted to, the false information couldn’t possibly be believed by the masses.
… Boy, was I wrong.
Social media platforms, like Facebook, have become an extremely effective tool for spreading propaganda.
This is evidenced by the hurricane of Russian propaganda that swung the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor.
Through platforms like Facebook, those aiming to spread this false information, can target people who lack media literacy. They use Facebook to amplify their message. Because this propaganda appears so frequently, and because it’s coming from what seem to be many different sources, people assume that it must be credible.
What’s particularly troubling about this is that Facebook doesn’t appear to have a lot of interest in curtailing this devastating wave of misinformation. It makes sense, they profit off of this activity.
The other option we have in countering propaganda is to put more funding into journalism. The profession is experiencing a crisis largely due to a lack of funding. Our government needs to recognize that ensuring that people have access to accurate information is essential to the survival of democracy.
(Of course, the current administration would want nothing to do with this, as “fake news” won the election for them.)
By creating laws to regulate the spread of misinformation on social media, and by investing in publicly funded journalism, we can begin taking steps to free our country from Russia’s influence, and restore a greater level of democracy to the United States.