Amid a pandemic, growing geopolitical tensions, and unprecedented partisanship in the United States, students at Syracuse University engage in an enormous amount of complex civil discourse. Engaging in debates and conversations around burning societal dilemmas is an essential part of intellectual experience during one’s college years.
It helps foster a culture of curiosity on college campuses, forcing students to discover their core values and learn to communicate effectively. However, the benefits that flow from such fluid discourse can be contaminated and erased by the spread of misinformation.
Years ago, the mainstream media served as gatekeepers, stopping the spread of false narratives and sorting out which stories were valid or false. Nowadays, with the rise of social media platforms, this barrier has been eroded, making it easier for individuals and institutions to spread false narratives.
One case occurred on February 25, 2022. A Facebook post depicted a video purporting to show the Ukrainian Air Force shooting down a Russian aircraft with the caption, “Just crazy footage of a MiG- 29 of the Ukrainian Air Force shooting down a Su-35 fighter aircraft. Glory to Ukraine…” The video has been viewed 14,000 times in almost a week. The video turned out to be from the Digital Combat Simulator video game.
Another case of misinformation occurred on March 14, 2022. A Facebook post claimed that the price of oil was $141.71 per barrel in June 2008, while gas averaged $4.10 per gallon. The post then said in March 2022 that oil cost $99.76 a barrel, while the average gas price was $4.32 a gallon. He then went on to say, “If you blame anyone other than greedy oil companies for their price gouging, you’ve bought into propaganda that hurts you more than anyone else.”
While this sheer amount of data appears to prove the user’s point, market pundits point to the fact that it takes time for gas prices to react to changes in crude oil prices. Experts also claim that the numbers have been handpicked and that the price differences from 2008 to 2022 are not as exaggerated as the user suggests. In addition to this, the user ignores other variables such as the changing geopolitical landscape and post-pandemic recovery. Facebook eventually deleted the post after it was flagged as part of its campaign against fake news.
Even though in both cases fact-checkers may have considered the posts to be false, the posts have already been seen by tens of thousands of people and the damage has been done. We cannot let the actions of malevolent actors determine the course of civil discourse on campus or in this country, letting disinformation manipulate our responses to global conflicts.
One thing students on campus can do to protect themselves from misinformation is to turn to more credible sources for their news. Studies have shown that young people tend to consume media from social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok rather than traditional publishers.
A Reuters Institute study found that 57% of 18-24 year olds in some countries check social media and messaging apps when they first pick up their smartphone for news. This further exposes them to potential misinformation as social media platforms are not treated as publishers and are not responsible for false or defamatory content posted by a user on their platform.
Other steps students can take to ensure that an article or piece of media is credible or unbiased are to research the original source, determine if the article is an opinion piece or a news article, and check what they read by looking up. information on other sites.
To protect the integrity and benefits of civil discourse on campus, students must place more emphasis on media literacy than convenience. They need to be more responsible and seek out credible sources rather than repeating an infographic from Instagram or a 30-second clip from TikTok.
Gil Markman is a second-year economics student. His column appears every two weeks. He can be reached at [email protected].
Published on March 22, 2022 at 11:32 p.m.