September 5, 2019

Dmitri Teperik: Social Media Has Become Too Toxic and Manipulative for Shaping Properly a Public Policy Debate

ICDS Chief Executive Dmitri Teperik participated in the international conference “Disinformation Wars in Central and Eastern Europe” organised by the German Federal Agency for Civic Education in Berlin on 29-31 August 2019.

Attended by more than 300 participants, the event focused on best practises in mapping, analysing and fighting disinformation and malign interference into democratic processes.

In his speech, Dmitri Teperik noted that social media has inevitably become an environment for virtual influence operations to spread hate speech, online harassment, xenophobia, polarization, radicalization and hostile ideologies. Since humans have neuropsychological limitations and biased ways of thinking, almost all social media users are cognitively not capable of effective filtrating truth from massive information flow, including disinformation, deep fakes etc. By exploiting users’ emotions and capturing their continuous attention, social media forces algorithmically interactions that amplify informational rubbish. Internationally and domestically conducted malicious manipulations in social media aimed at unnatural shaping of public opinion as well as at artificial distraction from serious policy-related debates and constructive dialogues.

According to Dmitri Teperik, nowadays media ecosystem is not just damaged, it is broken, because classical media has failed in self-regulating and following its own standards. Moreover, it expands reach of non-issues & informational rubbish from social media.

“Without comprehensive skills in information hygiene and profound understanding of social-psychological mechanisms of information consumption, any content on and from social media should be perceived by users as potentially suspicious or even malicious and therefore highly untrustworthy”, suggested Teperik. Studies show that consumption of weaponized information might lead to certain behaviour patterns in social groups by mobilizing or marginalising them, because social media boosts hypervisibility of certain emotional topics and supports astroturfing of various social issues.

“In communication, there is always supply and demand. Focusing solely on legal regulations of social media tech giants is a short-term solution for supply side without a clear vision how to address the demand side. For serious policy debate, face-to-face trusted communication should be clearly preferred as well as more knowledge is required on how socio-technical manipulations influence our behaviour, “ concluded Dmitri Teperik.