Social media has become a platform for posting information. Think of a post on Facebook. This post gets shared by people and gets commented on. Gradually, the post (an opinion) gets traction and becomes a trend. As more people share that post, it continues to influence the opinions of people about the topic of the post. This reaches a point where the social media algorithm recognizes which post is the most ‘trendy,’ caring less about the sources of that content.
This happens so often that we mostly never check the source of a trendy post because it gets recommended to us. As a result, the opinions (comments, likes, shares) on the post shadow our opinion on a trending topic. We have heard about Russia’s influence in the US Presidential Elections. It is likely that Russia’s influence connects to this method.
The content on social media today is largely unverified, which leads to misinterpretation of information. My interest is in creating a metric for trust on the web. The following are the questions that have influenced my research:
About 3 years ago, I was watching the 9 pm news with my mom and dad. It was a time in the Indian political system when AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) used to be on the news every day. While Dad was flipping through the news channels, I found two media channels giving contrasting opinions about a topic. Both the news agencies were among our top choices for getting information. I was unsure which one to trust, and so were my parents. Then, it hit me that we can not be sure which information to trust unless we dig deeper.
Although this incident took place a few years ago, I still have the memories of being indecisive about the world view. Last year, I was talking to my friend (who works in Singapore) who told me about Baidu, the most used search engine in China. While most of the world relies on Google for information (primarily), China relies on Baidu. He told me that Baidu had customized its search results to favor China and its culture. I was taken aback when I searched on Baidu to find that the first few search results on India depicted it an impoverished nation with people dying of hunger. I found such a generalization to be less trustworthy.
Last semester in our Design for This Century lecture, we were talking about Fake News and how it influences people every day. Inspired by my curiosity to understand news sources, I asked “which one do we trust? How do we know?”. I was told that you should get to the root of the sources.
Incidents like these have poked me to explore this topic and create a world view by myself.