How Social Media 'Meddlers' May Affect Elections

What you see on social media may be intended to create more divide among Americans, especially close to election time.

That's because meddlers are infiltrating our social media to not only influence elections, but to create more division among us -- think fake news coming from both sides.

Dr. Karen North is the director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities for the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She said these meddlers target us by what they know about us to manipulate our beliefs and behaviors. 

She said it's tough to say if people will change the way they vote based on what they see on social media, but said voter turnout can be manipulated using these platforms.

"There have always been campaigns to try to get people, especially certain demographic groups, to show up and vote because we know that they support our opinion or don't support our opinion," North said. 

North said meddlers use powerful images on social media to stir the pot, knowing we don't often have time to research the truth.

"When persuasive people and thought leaders tell us, 'This is what you should think and this is why you should think it,' especially if there's an image, then we need not do any more analysis," North said. "We can just accept it because it seems so digestable." 

The bottom line is foreign meddlers are on our social media -- and they're not hoping we'll choose one candidate over another, necessarily. 

Dr. North said it's more sinister than that.

"What they're doing is infiltrating social media in order to create discontent, distrust and dislike of other people in our social worlds," North said. 


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