Social Media in 2020: A Year of Misinformation and Disinformation

Kate Starbird

is an associate professor at the University of Washington and a co-founder of the Center for an Informed Public, which researches the spread of misinformation and disinformation on social-media platforms. She has been studying social media, especially its use during crises, since 2009, the year that


became the dominant online social-media site.

The Wall Street Journal talked to Prof. Starbird about what her research says about the impact of social media in 2020, and the work that still needs to be done to realize the benefits that social media can bring. Edited excerpts follow.

WSJ: What would you say is the most important takeaway from the social-media world in 2020?

PROF. STARBIRD: We’re really focused right now on a lot of the negatives with social media. But there are still positive dimensions. We’re still seeing people being able to reach out and connect with other people at

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Why Entrepreneurs Need to Approach Social Media Like Athletes and Celebrities

Social media is such a valuable tool — for everyone. Celebrities and athletes use it to stay connected to their fans and entrepreneurs need to have the same approach when it comes to building a following.

a woman wearing sunglasses posing for the camera

© Erik Voake | Getty Images

I spent five years playing professional baseball — three years with the Seattle Mariners organization and two years playing in the Minnesota Twins organization. From the first day of training camp throughout my entire career, the importance of the fans was always stressed.


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Related: How Did This 16-Year-Old Girl Amass 100 Million Followers On TikTok?

After all, without fans, I wouldn’t have had that amazing opportunity to play baseball for a living. Young athletes with potential for professional careers are groomed these days to build a social media following — one that they can take along with them on their journey.

Celebrities do the same —

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Social Advertising and Influencer Marketing, 2020 Report – Are They a Threat to Advertising Market Leaders?


The “Social Advertising and Influencer Marketing – Are They a Threat to Advertising Market Leaders?” report has been added to’s offering.

This report examines the fast-growing social media and influencer marketing market.

It begins by outlining the main trajectories at work in digital advertising, and how influencer marketing is positioned. It also describes the ecosystem of incumbent players.

The second part analyses how US and Chinese social media giants are positioned, and especially how they are incorporating classic digital advertising and influencer marketing.

Also included is an analysis of the outstanding issues and challenges for these platforms and for advertisers and brands, once again with a particular focus on China.

Rounding it out are spending forecasts for influencer marketing up to 2024 for each of the world’s main regions.

Key Topics Covered:

1. Executive Summary

2. Market and trends

2.1. Usage

2.2. How the advertising

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Which product categories and industries benefit most from social advertising

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

New research from a team of scientists at four leading universities has shed new light on the effectiveness of social advertising in specific product categories to learn which product categories tend to benefit more from social advertising, and which may not.

“Social advertising is the placement of social cues or endorsements in ads shown to friends of those who have engaged with a brand or product,” said Huang. “Some examples include Facebook’s social advertising that places the images and names of Facebook friends who have liked a brand in their ads. Or, Google’s Shared Endorsement ads that do the same thing, placing the names, images and product ratings of others in product search results.

Advertising without these social cues was compared to advertising that included the social cues to arrive at findings that can help marketers develop and implement more effective advertising strategies.

The research study

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Pakistani film explores social media’s role in anger over blasphemy

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The creator of an animated film on blasphemy in Pakistan is hoping it will prompt discussion on tolerance at a time that rights advocates say hate speech on social media is increasingly triggering violence.

Screen grab from an animated short film SWIP, produced by the Puffball Studios, taken from an undated video, obtained by Reuters. Arafat Mazhar/Handout via REUTERS

The short film “Swipe” is about a boy obsessed with a hypothetical smartphone app that allows people to vote on whether someone should be killed for blasphemy and offers a glimpse of a stark future of what rights groups say is a worrisome present.

“The screen is what alienates people and what they say through a screen they probably wouldn’t say to another person in front of them,” Arafat Mazhar, the director of the 14-minute animated film, told Reuters.

Blasphemy is a crime in Pakistan and officially carries

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‘On Social Media, There Are Thousands’: In Cuba, Internet Fuels Rare Protests

What started as anger over the arrests morphed into conversations among the artists about their frustration with limits to free expression on the island. They commiserated over their fear of government censorship or outright repression because of the art, theater or movies they produce.

“I want to do free art, without state security parked on my corner,” said Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, a performance artist who led the hunger strike last month.

By nightfall, hundreds had gathered for the spontaneous protest against the government — something not seen in Cuba since the nation plunged into economic crisis after the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Troubadours, artists, playwrights, rappers and reggaetoneras played music, read poetry and sang the national anthem. When the ministry allowed a group of demonstrators into the building to negotiate, those gathered outside clapped every 10 minutes or so to express support.

Artists have a

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6 Steps for Better Social Media Engagement

Figuring out a strategy that improves social media engagement and conversion rates — and aligns with business goals — is a common challenge for marketers. There are many solutions for improving social metrics and business ROI, but no part of a digital-marketing plan works in isolation, and social media engagement and conversion rates are a perfect example. Despite being on different levels of the marketing funnel, they can improve simultaneously. Here are six steps you can follow to make that happen.

a laptop computer sitting on top of a keyboard

© Urupong | Getty Images

Step 1: Increase your social proof

Social proof, coined by Robert Cialdini, is a psychological concept in which individuals tend to mimic others’ actions when faced with an ambiguous situation. According to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights study, social networks ranked first (37 percent) on a list of where online shoppers look for inspiration. To improve your social proof you could consider the following:

  • Post 
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Vaccine misinformation on social media amid COVID ‘a huge problem’

Social media posts containing vaccine misinformation not only have increased since the pandemic began, they’re more likely to coexist alongside less extreme content, effectively normalizing them and possibly delaying wider acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine, experts told ABC News.

Dr. Doreen Brown, 85, receives the first of two Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine jabs administered at Guy's Hospital in London, Dec. 8, 2020.

© Victoria Jones/AP
Dr. Doreen Brown, 85, receives the first of two Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine jabs administered at Guy’s Hospital in London, Dec. 8, 2020.

Analysts with Graphika, a firm that tracks social media misinformation, said that members of the anti-vaccine community, some already with large followings, have since absorbed individuals previously entrenched in similar groups tied to wellness or alternative medicine or unfounded conspiracy theories.


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Melanie Smith, head of analysis at Graphika, said anti-vaccination communities now engage online more with posts about pop culture, celebrities and politics, producing tailored messages that can amplify their cause. Posting a wider array of content is a strategy used by other fringe

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Remote School as the Gateway Drug to Social Media

Instead, Dr. Shapiro suggested, parents can incorporate digital play as part of family time, and “interact with your kids, get involved with your kids — especially when they’re little.” At this critical time (typically before the age of 12), kids yearn for conversations with their parents — whether it’s about the latest YouTube video they’ve seen or a new video game they’ve played — and parents should seize the opportunity to interject themselves into the development of their child’s inner dialogue.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also endorses the idea that parents should serve as media mentors to their children.

Part of the exploration parents can engage in with their children could also include interactions on a family social media account where parents “talk about how to share photos with relatives and ‘what is the appropriate way we comment on Uncle Joey’s posts,’” Dr. Shapiro said. This modeling of appropriate

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