Can you outsmart a troll (by thinking like one)? - Claire Wardle

Your town is holding a mayoral election and the stakes have never been higher. The outcome will decide the fate of a local movement to rely on 100 % renewable energy. - One mayoral nominee Joanna B. Greene is a champion of this movement, while the other Stannis Quo staunchly opposes it.

, He’s announced he’ll use. Whatever tactics are necessary to win the election. As the municipal cybersecurity expert you’re on high alert. Election day is near, and you suspect that Quo will begin pushing false information to swing the election in his favor.

. Your job is to inoculate the townspeople against false information before the election.. One of the most effective ways to tackle disinformation is to encourage people to think about the strategies used by those who create and spread it.

. This might seem counter-intuitive— and potentially dangerous—, but as long as you don’t create a “how-to manual, ” active inoculation is an effective option.. A study conducted in 2019 used an online game to train people to think like a disinformation producer.

When the participants were next shown, the disinformation, their perception of its reliability dropped significantly., But before you can teach your own townspeople, you need to figure it out for yourself.

. What strategies would you employ if you were Stannis Quo In order to launch a successful disinformation campaign, you must use evocative and convincing content that will spread quickly and create confusion.

It’ll also help to take advantage of confirmation. Bias. People are intuitively more inclined to believe information that supports a worldview they already have.. Many young voters in your town are in favor of transitioning to renewable energy and sympathize with Greene.

, Rather than trying to change their minds Quo will likely focus on suppressing the youth vote.. If you were him, how would you start You might create fake user accounts to spread disinformation on popular social media platforms.

? You could even make one that impersonates a trusted. Figure. From these accounts. You can deliver highly shareable engaging visual content like memes, relating to the imminent election., That’s how you would like to go about spreading disinformation, but what kind of disinformation would be effective in manipulating young Greene supporters? First, you could direct people to vote via text a webpage or an app, none of which are viable voting platforms in your town.

. The claim isn’t too far-fetched. An encrypted digital platform could actually seem safer to young people than the traditional ballot system.. Perhaps you could also tell them that the voting day is one day after it actually is.

. You could then pair this approach with a more emotion-driven one. How about vilifying Greene and appealing to the young voters’ values. You want to share information that taps into people’s sense of civic duty and makes them feel that the election depends on their sharing it as widely as possible.

. Your fake accounts could circulate false accusations that Greene takes money from local. Somehow corrupt, renewable energy facilities treats her staff poorly or abuses stray kittens for fun.. These inflammatory claims could lead people to question Greene’s integrity as a leader and even initiate further conspiracy.

Theories. After you’ve introduced these disinformation campaigns, your fake users should keep repeating them, so they stick in people’s minds.. Finally, media coverage would further spread your claims and give them perceived legitimacy.

. You could message a few local journalists asking whether these rumors are true and express your concerns.. By the time an article comes out debunking the rumors people’s experiences of the truth will have become so warped that convincing them otherwise will be difficult.

. A disinformation campaign like this would pit citizens against one another and exploit their values and fears.. You can't personally protect each individual from disinformation, but you can equip them with the insights you have— and encourage them to pass these tools further along.

. After all, community organizing is what elections often call for

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