Kinzen's Weekly Wrap - September 23, 2022

This week Emma Cardea, one of Kinzen’s editorial analysts, published a new blog post about the rise of the occult in France, and how it is impacting misinformation in the country. 

She writes about the increase in belief regarding psychics, palm readers and astrologers since the COVID pandemic. She goes on to highlight some of the harmful claims made by these fortune tellers in the research she has been conducting - and how they try to evade the content moderators at platforms by speaking in a language, “algospeak”, which only die-hard supporters understand. 

Real world harm can often result in this kind of material: whether by disencouraging people to take the appropriate medications or other professional health recommendations, and through the growing risk of scams. 

The post is full of fascinating factoids and is a brilliant read. Check it out here.

Editor’s Pick

Ethan Zuckerman is one of the thought leaders in the digital infrastructure space who is always worth reading. That’s why I recently picked up Mistrust: Why Losing Faith in Institutions Provides the Tools to Transform Them.

He makes a crucial point that is often overlooked in disinformation studies: one of the biggest reasons people are susceptible to falsehoods is a huge loss of trust in the public mind with institutions: religion, policing, government, media, health authorities, and so on. 

In the book he explores all the various consequences of this loss of trust, why it’s happened, and what we might be able to do to counteract it. Zuckerman finds inspiration in how social movements mobilise online to effect change. 

For Your Ears

On this week’s episode of The Lawfare Podcast, Dan Byman talks about tools and techniques to limit the spread of extremism on social platforms. It follows research he has recently published on the topic. Listen here.

From the Kinzen Slack Channels

Articles recommended by our uniquely experienced group of engineers, scientists, designers, developers and editorial experts

The Election Integrity Partnership. 10 Factors That Shape a Rumor’s Capacity for Online Virality

Researchers from the Stanford Internet Observatory and the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public collaborated on this exploration of how rumours can spread in online spaces. They are particularly motivated by concerns about false election rumours and their threat to democratic stability. We’re just over six weeks out from the midterms in the US, but the lessons here have global implications. 

Misinformation Review. Mis- and disinformation studies are too big to fail: Six suggestions for the field’s future

There’s been a lot of noise about misinformation since 2016 and while some of this represents more nuanced discussions about our information environment, some of this has also been chaotic and uneven. The authors of this piece propose "ways ahead for the development of a more critical, interdisciplinary, and rigorous scholarly discipline of mis- and disinformation studies." Hear hear! It is vital that our conversations about these topics are thoughtful, respectul of the complexity inherent to them, and recognise the global nature of the challenge.

Institute for Security Studies. Just who is stirring up disinformation in Africa?

This post reflects on the recent Kenyan election and, while more research needs to be conducted, at this stage it seems that much of the election-related disinformation was home-grown. "Rather than foreign players, the election campaign revealed a burgeoning industry of Kenyan paid-for influencers – hired for their social media presence rather than the merit of their arguments. Many on the payroll of election contenders (even opposing candidates at the same time) used their digital footprint to push key messages linked to particular candidates."

Vox. Latino voters are being flooded with even more misinformation in 2022

In news that will surprise no one, the prevalence of misinformation in Spanish could have a major bearing on the US midterms. This is a good roundup of the landscape in Spanish right now.

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