11/20/2020

Big Tech Can’t Stop The Lies

17:05 minutes

a black and white image social media apps on a phone screen, with a close up on twitter, instagram, and facebook. the facebook app has a red notification with a question mark in it
Credit: Shutterstock/Design by Lauren Young

As the dust continues to settle from the 2020 presidential election, unfounded rumors persist about stolen ballots, dead people voting, and other kinds of alleged fraud—all without evidence. But as slow results trickle in, President-Elect Joe Biden has won by large but plausible margins, and investigations into the process have held up the results as inarguable.  

Anticipating a wave of misinformation, Twitter and Facebook both took unprecedented steps in the weeks leading up to the election to put election claims in context, marking questionable posts as misinformation. And yet large numbers of Americans continue to disagree about reality.

How did this happen? And why have we seen so much of other kinds of misinformation this year—like anti-mask beliefs, or other COVID-19 hoaxes? Or take the QAnon conspiracy theories, all of which are completely baseless, yet somehow still spreading?

Ira talks to New York Times reporter Davey Alba, and misinformation researcher Joan Donovan, about the patterns of media manipulation and how misinformation succeeds in our digital world.


Further Reading

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Segment Guests

Joan Donovan

Joan Donovan is the Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Davey Alba

Davey Alba is a technology reporter covering disinformation for the New York Times in New York, New York.

Segment Transcript

The transcript for this segment is being processed. It will be posted within one week after the episode airs.

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About Christie Taylor

Christie Taylor is a producer for Science Friday. Her day involves diligent research, too many phone calls for an introvert, and asking scientists if they have any audio of that narwhal heartbeat.

About Ira Flatow

Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science FridayHis green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door.

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