Can social media cause BREXIT and Amazon fires?

We all are aware of the “Whatsapp” university, Twitter troll army and Facebook fake news. But can you imagine how significant damage can social media cause in the country and world affairs? How political parties and governments use social media as a weapon against their own citizens. You must be wondering for a long time that something is undoubtedly driving these acts. Still, I hope today I can finally connect the dots.

BREXIT – was it influenced or not?

Let’s start by talking about a referendum conducted in the UK on 23rd June,’19 related to BREXIT. BREXIT = BRITAIN +EXIT. The question asked in the referendum to the UK citizens whether they want to take the UK out of the European Union. Some politicians supported it, and some were against it. The politicians who supported it can be called Leave group and the ones against it can be called Remain group. When this referendum has conducted the politicians from LEAVE group, spread numerous propaganda based fake news to fool UK citizens. The major player involved was Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica collected data of Facebook users, i.e. the likes and dislikes of people. They had an exhaustive demographic of which type of people like and hate what, i.e. basically what they think and what’s their mindset. On this basis, they were shown personalized Ads to convince them that the UK should come out of the European Union.

This is an AD which was very popular on Facebook, but they didn’t show it to everyone. This was shown only to those for whom “immigration” was a major issue and talking point. People who fear foreigners a little, especially the old age groups, they were shown that Turkey’s 76 million foreigners are allowed VISA-Free travel by the EU. So the UK people naturally developed a fear that these foreigners will come and occupy the whole of Britain, eating up their jobs and opportunities. But the reality is that this news was completely fake.

TRUTH- Turkey is not a part of the EU, and no free visa travel was being allowed.

Similarly, radically thinking people who consider healthcare as an essential issue were shown in the following Ad.

It says that being a part of EU, UK is granting £350 million to the EU every week. This is an economic loss to the country, and people should vote in favour of BREXIT.

TRUTH- This wasn’t the right account of the grant given. The UK also receives a large amount of money from the EU and overall, its an economic gain for the region.

People who cared for the environment they were shown the following AD-

It says that being a part of EU, humanity is not able to protect the polar bears- Sounds too ridiculous! Right? But the reality is this was also promoted and circulated.

Youngsters were shown the following AD, which said that the EU is planning to force quotas on Netflix and other streaming services. Uber and Ola, taxi services will be regulated. So, people should vote in favour of BREXIT as well.

All these Ads were obviously fake, and when the result was announced that people voted to “leave”, it proved that all these Ads were obviously influential. Later we got to know the scandal of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook (Watch the Netflix documentary –The Great Hack for in-depth series of events.) Facebook confirmed that these Ads were used during the referendum campaigning.

Well, the solution to this can be that-

  1. One shouldn’t give out too much personal data on Facebook so that Facebook cannot collect the data of your personal likes and dislikes.
  2. One should be aware and vigilant of what’s happening around them before voicing your opinion, even by pressing like or dislike button.

Amazon Fires – Did Bolsonaro had a role?

India and Brazil are very much similar to each other, in Whatsapp usage as a communication App.  The population of Brazil is about 210 million, and 120 million+ are WhatsApp subscribers. In 2018, when elections took place, the new president elected was Bolsonaro. During the last week of Bolsonaro’s presidential campaign, a Brazilian newspaper reported that some companies who favoured Bolsonaro spent $3 million in Whatsapp fake news campaign. Four digital agencies were funded and directed to spread fake news on Whatsapp. Out of them, one digital company collected Whatsapp numbers of users illegally and spread the fake word. Fake photos photoshopped like this were laid against the opposition ministers saying that they supported communism. Bolsonaro himself tweeted this picture in which a group of people carrying guns and weapons were given death threats to Bolsonaro. 

TRUTH – It is a fake photo where the original image did not contain the placard with Bolsonaro’s name. Does it ring a bell?? Similar statement was circulated by some ministers in India as well.

The top 50 photos which went viral during the election campaign in Brazil, out of the 46 were Fake and photoshopped. When the news broke out that fake news is being spread, the journalist, Patricia Campos Mello, who published the article, received numerous death threats, abuse and trolls on social media. Bolsonaro later said that he vows to cut spending for media that “lie”.

Bolsonaro is an extreme right-wing leader. He has strong views against feminism and the whole LGBTQ community. It would be shocking to read and even digest the fact that Bolsonaro was indirectly held responsible for the increase in Amazon fires in his tenure. As soon as he became the president, Amazon fires increased by two times. When he was asked that what is being done to arrest it, firstly he said that we can’t do anything. Then after a long delay, he blamed the NGOs for lighting fire in the Amazon.

The solution to all this is that we shouldn’t believe and forward the messages and memes we read on WhatsApp. We can do a google reverse image search or check with an authentic source.

Hong Kong protests– Chinese government directed fake news on social media

Hong Kong was going through pro-democracy protests because the Chinese government is trying to impose its dictatorship laws. Initially, the Chinese government imposed a ban on any post or conversations related to the rally on Social media. But what later happened was that it grew bigger and bigger with time and it received support from many foreign countries as well. The Chinese government then realized that it wouldn’t be right to ban and started spreading its propaganda on mainstream and social media. The media channels said that the Hong Kong protesters are terrorist, anti-national and have turned violent. They are being manipulated and funded by western countries. On Twitter and Facebook, thousands of fake accounts were created, and faked photos were circulated that the Hong Kong protestors were violent and radical. They were even compared to cockroaches, as you can see in the image.

Media made caricatures and cartoons that Hong Kong protestors are mocking the Chinese citizens as you can see in the following picture.

Another photo was circulated by the Chinese government, that they supported the Hong Kong police. This was done in order to tell the protesters if they have any nationalist sentiment, they should leave the protests and help Hong Kong police. Whoever didn’t support the Hong Kong police were termed anti-national.

Thankfully Twitter and Facebook deleted many fake accounts. Twitter even said that they won’t accept any advertisements by any state-owned media company.

The purpose here is not to stop using social media. Social media has it has its own share of pros and cons, but the idea is to be vigilant, aware and not share anything and everything which we receive on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We should avoid the misuse of social media.

There are numerous cases of social media fake news and propaganda that has happened in the past. It’s time before building up a strong opinion, and herd mentality we have a little clarity. We should take our personal data on social media with the utmost care and think twice before voicing our opinions on social media. It is believed that even the 2014 and 2019 elections were influenced by Cambridge Analytica. Let me know what do you think? Comment and follow me on Instagram- @WitbyLogical

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