CHB Mail - 2021-10-14


Fighting online misinformation


Maryana Garcia

‘We know the vaccine doesn’t make us magnetic. We don’t buy into the microchip korero going around. That’s Black Mirror stuff.” Those are the words of a Bay of Plenty social media expert who says young people tend to have a good grasp of what is true and what isn’t online. However, Toi Kai Rawa technical innovation activator Rangipare Belshaw-Ngaropo says some communities are more vulnerable to Covid-19 misinformation than others. “With Ma¯ori, there is a historical mistrust of government and that makes us more susceptible to misinformation,” Belshaw-Ngaropo said. Belshaw-Ngaropo uses social media every day. Aside from using platforms to stay connected with friends and wha¯nau, Belshaw-Ngaropo uses social media as a reflective writing space and has close to 2000 followers on Instagram. “A huge driver for me, I’m not going to lie, is to promote Ma¯ ori in a positive light. I don’t think we have enough control over our own narrative.” While the 27-year-old sees social media as a positive tool, she also recognises the pitfalls of digital spaces that are targeted at consumers. “Humans are so charged and energised by things that are marketed to them in a certain way. Things on social media are framed so that they catch our attention and they can influence us.” When sorting facts from fiction online, Belshaw-Ngaropo trusts her intuition and checks web addresses. “Usually, the URLs are a good indication. I look for credible sources like literature, published articles. “If the information has been accumulated by professionals and experts then I’m probably more likely to trust that rather than a conspiracy theory.” At the same time, BelshawNgaropo tries her best to approach conversations about misinformation with aroha. “Everyone’s coming from a different place. You don’t know what that person knows and doesn’t know.” Belshaw-Ngaropo’s advice to social media users is: “Don’t be afraid to be selective with the content you digest, who you follow.” Collab Digital managing director Brent Ireland works with a Taurangabased team of experienced specialist digital marketers, content creators and strategists on global and national social media campaigns. He said social media misinformation was a problem. “At the end of the day, this is all new ground, especially in a global pandemic. When you’ve got lots of people using [social media] information and misinformation can spread more quickly.” Ireland said it was easy to “go down a rabbit hole” online. “To be honest, you’ve got to take everything you see with a grain of salt. “When you see a video pop up in your newsfeed, ask yourself ‘What is the source?’, ‘What is the motive for posting this?’ ” Ireland said online audiences needed to research and go deeper than what they saw on social media. “It’s not hard to make things look like they’re true when actually not. If you want answers, you really need to ask questions. “Just last night I saw a video that looked like something made by CNN [but was not]. If someone wasn’t paying attention they could trust it.” Ireland emphasised the importance for social media users to check the sources on posts. “Don’t take anything you see for face value. “The algorithm is showing things to you because they think you’re interested.”


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