Tags: social media networks | russian ads | washington post

Professor: Russian Ads on Social Media Didn't Create Polarization

Image: Professor: Russian Ads on Social Media Didn't Create Polarization

By    |   Tuesday, 14 Nov 2017 10:09 AM

Social media networks and the Russian ads they helped to propagate did not create political divisions in the U.S. — they simply worked to "exploit and amplify" existing polarizations, a research professor wrote in a column for The Washington Post.

Babak Bahador asserts that the propaganda that spread over social media sites wasn't nearly as powerful as people think, for 2 main reasons:

  1. A sizable chunk of the 150 million users Facebook said were exposed to Russian fake news were likely fake accounts and botnets.
  1. Political messages - including propaganda - rarely change minds; instead, they confirm existing biases.

"Confirmation bias is one reason that contemporary research has concluded that, for the most part, political advertising and messaging aren’t very effective in changing minds," Bahador wrote for the Post. "The people most susceptible to propaganda — those with weak political attitudes — are least likely to pay attention to political messages, online or elsewhere."

The fissures between people and political ideologies existed long before Russians decided to troll Americans in advance of the 2016 election, wrote Bahador, a research professor at George Washington University.

"While foreign propaganda efforts to influence U.S. politics and society are a disturbing trend, it is important to realize that such messaging is … created and situated within an era’s existing political conversations," Bahador wrote.

"Social media messaging can only exploit and amplify polarization if a democracy is already polarized and politically torn. Online social networks are not the source of the problem; they are just a medium, albeit one with a new set of tools whose vulnerabilities we are just discovering," Bahador concluded.

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Social media networks and the Russian ads they helped to propagate did not create political divisions in the U.S. - they simply worked to "exploit and amplify" existing polarizations, a research professor wrote in a column for The Washington Post.
social media networks, russian ads, washington post
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2017-09-14
Tuesday, 14 Nov 2017 10:09 AM
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