What the Tech? Using Social Media in Civil Rights Protests

Millions of people are sharing posts and information on social media about the protests all across the country. Some of it is true, some of it is not.

Some of what’s being posted and shared aren’t from real people at all.

Dr. Gideon Blocq is the CEO of a company called Vinesight, that searches through all the social media posts being shared around the world, trying to spot false information and how it is spread. He says he’s never seen anything like the amount of toxic posts being shared now, with no basis in fact.

“Over the weekend, we saw a spike 3 and a half times more misinformation and toxic attacks compared to corona,” he explained.

That’s saying quite a lot, as false information about COVID-19 swept across social media a couple of months ago. Much of it, Blocq says is created and shared faster than the platforms can react.

“What we’re seeing is that there’s a lot of automation appearing,” said Blocq. “A lot of so called bots and automation that can turn one voice into hundreds of thousands of voices and amplify it so much to go trending on social media.”

Monday the hashtag #dcblackout went viral on Twitter following a tweet that described horrifying moments in downtown DC.

It claimed there was a blackout of all communication through cellphones so that no one protesting could tell followers what was happening. The original tweets included photos and videos.

Twitter was besieged by these tweets which, according to the Washington Post, was first tweeted out by an account with just 3 followers.

The hashtag went viral with photos and videos and supposed ‘first-hand accounts’. One photo shared thousands of times, was actually a photo taken from the TV show “Designated Survivor”.

“That was a very sophisticated misinformation attack,” explains Blocq. “None of that was true. Our systems picked it up but it’s really unlike the stuff we usually see.”

Dr. Blocq says because of how all sides use social media to push their agenda, users should not believe everything they see.

“If it’s a trusted news source that gives some credibility. If three trusted news sources spoke abut it, that gives a lot more credibility.”

Twitter suspended hundreds of accounts following Monday’s incident. DC police Chief Peter Newsham responded to media questions that there was no communication blackout of any sort.

Verizon and AT&T also confirmed there was no interruption of service to customers.

News travels fast in today’s social media driven world. False news can spread even faster.

Always try to verify a post or video before sharing it to your followers and friends.

Categories: News Video, What The Tech