A Review of ‘Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online’

This was previously posted on the AACE Review by Sandra Rogers.

Digital screen with green code on black background
Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

In Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online, Marwick and Lewis (2017) of the Data & Society Research Institute described the agents of media manipulation, their modus operandi, motivators, and how they’ve taken advantage of the vulnerability of online media. The researchers described the manipulators as right-wing extremists (RWE), also known as alt-right, who run the gamut from sexists (including male sexual conquest communities) to white nationalists to anti-immigration activists and even those who rebuke RWE identification but whose actions confer such classification.

These manipulators rally behind a shared belief on online forums, blogs, podcasts, and social media through pranks or ruinous trolling anonymity, usurping participatory culture methods (networking, humor, mentorship) for harassment, and competitive cyber brigades that earn status by escalating bullying such as the sharing of a target’s private information. The researchers proposed that the use of the more digestible term of alt-right to convey the collective agenda of misogynists, racists, and fascists propelled their causes into the mainstream discourse through various media streams. Therefore, I’ll use the term RWE instead.

MEDIA ECOSYSTEM MALEABILITY

The Internet provides a shared space for good and evil. Subcultures such as white nationalists can converge with other anti-establishment doers on an international scale thanks to the connected world we live in. Marwick and Lewis reported on how RWE groups have taken advantage of certain media tactics to gain viewers’ attention such as novelty and sensationalism, as well as their interactions with the public via social media, to manipulate it for their agenda. For instance, YouTube provides any individual with a portal and potential revenue to contribute to the media ecosystem. The researchers shared the example of the use of YouTube by conspiracy theorists, which can be used as fodder for extremist networks as conspiracies generally focus on the loss of control of important ideals, health, and safety.

The more outrageous conspiracies get picked up by the media for their viewers, and in doing so, are partly to blame for their proliferation. In the case study provided with this article, The White Student Union, an influencer successfully sought moral outrage as a publicity stunt. Why isn’t the media more astute about this? “The mainstream media’s predilection for sensationalism, need for constant novelty, and emphasis on profits over civic responsibility made them vulnerable to strategic manipulation (p. 47) (Marwick & Lewis, 2017).”

ONLINE ATTENTION HACKING

Marwick and Lewis shared how certain RWE influencers gained prominence based on their technological skills and manipulative tactics. One tactic they’re using is to package their hate in a way that appeals to millennials. They use attention hacking to increase their status such as hate speech, which is later recanted as trickster trolling all the while gaining the media’s attention for further propagation. Then there are the RWE so-called news outlets and blogs that promote a hyper-partisan agenda and falsehoods. These were successful in attention hacking the nation running up to the 2016 Presidential election at a scale that out-paced that of the regular news outlets on Facebook (Buzz Feed News, 2016). Are they unstoppable?

The researchers indicated that the only formidable enemy of alt-right media is the opposing factions within its fractured, yet shared hate, assemblage. Unfortunately, mainstream media’s reporting on political figures who engage in conspiracy theories, albeit noteworthy as to their mindset, raises it to the level of other important newsworthy of debate.  Berger and Luckmann (1966) referred to this as ‘reality maintenance’ through dialogue, reality-confirmation through interactions, ongoingly modified, and legitimized through certain conversations. The media needs to stop the amplification of RWE messages; otherwise, as Marwick and Lewis stated, it could gravely darken our democracy.

ONLINE MANIPULATORS SHARED MODUS OPERANDI

Marwick and Lewis reported the following shared tactics various RWE groups use for online exploits:

  • Ambiguity of persona or ideology,
  • Baiting a single or community target’s emotions,
  • Bots for amplification of propaganda that appears legitimately from a real person,
  • “…Embeddedness in Internet culture… (p. 28),”
  • Exploitation of young male rebelliousness,
  • Hate speech and offensive language (under the guise of First Amendment protections),
  • Irony to cloak ideology and/or skewer intended targets,
  • Memes for stickiness of propaganda,
  • Mentorship in argumentation, marketing strategies, and subversive literature in their communities of interest,
  • Networked and agile groups,
  • “…Permanent warfare… (p.12)” call to action,
  • Pseudo scholarship to deceive readers,
  • “…Quasi moral arguments… (p. 7)”
  • Shocking images for filtering network membership,
  • “Trading stories up the chain… (p. 38)” from low-level news outlets to mainstream, and
  • Trolling others with asocial behavior.

This is a frightful attempt at the social reconstruction of our reality, as the verbal and nonverbal language we use objectifies and rules the order (Berger and Luckmann, 1966).

DISINFORMATION MOTIVATORS

According to Marwick and Lewis, media manipulators are motivated by pushing their ideological agendas, the joy of sowing chaos in the lives of targets, financial gain, and/or status. The RWE’s shared use of online venues to build a counter-narrative and to radicalize recruits is not going away any time soon. This was best explained in their article as, with the Internet, the usual media gatekeepers have been removed.

Some claimed their impetus was financial and not politically motivated such as the teenagers in Veles, Macedonia who profited around 16K dollars per month via Google’s AdSense from Facebook post engagements with their 100 fake news websites (Subramanian, 2017). “What Veles produced, though, was something more extreme still: an enterprise of cool, pure amorality, free not only of ideology but of any concern or feeling about the substance of the election (Subramanian, 2017).”  …Google eventually suspended the ads from these and other fake news sites. However, as reported in Dead Reckoning, new provocateurs will eventually figure out how to circumvent Google’s AdSense and other online companies’ gateways as soon as they develop new ones. This is because, as aforementioned, the RWE influencers are tech-savvy.

PUBLIC MISTRUST OF MAINSTREAM MEDIA

Marwick and Lewis acknowledged a long history of mistrust with mainstream media. However, the current distrust appears worse than ever. For example, youth reported having little faith in mainstream media (Madden, Lenhart & Fontaine, 2017). Republicans’ trust in the mainstream media was the lowest ever recorded by the Gallop Poll (Swift, 2016). Why has it worsened? They pinpointed The New York Times’ lack of evidence for various news articles on the Iraq War’s nuclear arsenal, as an example of long-lasting readership dismay. The researchers reported on how a lack of trust in the mainstream media has pushed viewers to watch alternative networks instead. Moreover, the right-wing extremists’ manipulation of the media demonstrates the media’s weakness, which in turn sows mistrust. Marwick and Lewis acknowledged that the RWE subculture has been around the Internet for decades and will continue to thrive off the mainstream media’s need for novelty and sensationalism if allowed. I, for one, appreciate what Data & Society is doing to shed light on the spread of fake news and hatemongers’ agendas on the Internet.

Instructional Material

If you’re a college instructor of communications or teach digital literacy as a librarian, see the corresponding syllabus for this article. It provides discussion questions and assignments for teaching students about media manipulation. To teach your students how to combat fake news online, see my other AACE Review post on Navigating Post-Truth Societies: Strategies, Resources, and Technologies.

References

Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Madden, M. Lenhart, A., & Fontaine, C. (February 2017). How youth navigate the news landscape. Retrieved from https://kf-siteproduction.s3.amazonaws.com/publications/pdfs/000/000/230/original/Youth_News.pdf

Marwick, A. & Lewis, R. (2017). Media manipulation and disinformation online. Retrieved from https://datasociety.net/pubs/oh/DataAndSociety_MediaManipulationAndDisinformationOnline.pdf

Subramanian, S. (February 2017). Inside the Macedonian fake-news complex. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2017/02/veles-macedonia-fake-news/

Swift, A. (2016). Americans trust in mass media sinks to new low. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx


Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

Teacherrogers Products
Pre-K, Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Staff, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

The Gingerbread Man Doesn’t Escape Common Core

Gingerbread Man with bow tie near stack of other cookies says,
Students illustrate the text.

Continue reading “The Gingerbread Man Doesn’t Escape Common Core”

Mini-lecture and Photos of Colonial Williamsburg for 5th Graders

Pine Wreath with burlap flowers from Colonial Williamsburg

The 15 images in this presentation are photos I took of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia a few winters ago.  I was amazed by the beauty of the old fashioned traditions like the image above with burlap and cotton bolls as ornamentation for the Christmas wreath.  This is one of my products on TeachersPayTeachers.

The purpose of the presentation is to give students a glimpse of colonial life. Photos include children’s toys, holiday wreaths, a bedroom, chamber pot, a kitchen, a dining room, a coal-burning furnace, a cellar, a garden maze, the Governor’s Palace (The Wythe House), the Royal Capitol, a home, wallpaper, a horse-drawn carriage, and a soldier’s drum. The PowerPoint slides include brief lecture notes.

Most school curriculum teach about the 13 colonies and the American Revolutionary  in the 5th grade, as part of history class.  Check out my store on TPT if you are interested in purchasing it.

Thanks to all of my TPT supporters for another great year!

Sandra Rogers

aka Teacherrogers

Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction for Pixlr Workshop

Photo of authur with stars, leaves, and vines over image.
I used Pixlr to edit and manipulate my photo.

Pixlr Tech Teaser (15 min)
This instructional sequence is based on Gagné’s (1985) nine events of instruction. The internal processes for each event are based on the work of Gagné and Driscoll (1988).

Prep: Download Pixlr software to desktop. Open picture editor. Preload folder with images for practice. Locate some great images edited with the software to illustrate as examples.

Software constraints:
• Not compatible with Mozilla Firefox; Use Google Chrome or Internet Explorer instead;
• Advance level Editor will not save as an image file. It will download as an odd file type. You’ll be able to see the icon. Simply rename it as a .jpg or .png; and
• Limited text manipulation of font. For example, you can’t make font bold or italicized. To enlarge the text,  manipulate the text box size.

Lesson
1. Gain Attention: Show some amazing images that you created with Pixlr for a class. (Internal process: reception)
2. State Objective: Use Pixlr to modify or enhance images for course content to add visual imagery, cues, or a personal touch to your online courses.  (Internal process: expectancy)
3. Stimulate recall of prior learning: Ask if they have ever worked with Pixlr, Picasa, Photoshop, or Gimp? Let them share their experience with these photo editing software programs.  (Internal process: retrieval to working memory)
4. Present content: (Internal process: selective perception)
• Free photo editing software. Free mobile app, too. Show intermediate level— Open Pixlr Express (Efficient);
• No need to login. Can save image to desktop. Log in to save images in the cloud;
• The more advanced level, Open Pixlr Editor, has almost the same amount of photo editing capabilities as Adobe’s Photoshop;
• Functions include crop, re-size, fix red-eye/whiten teeth, colorization, and 600 special effects.
5. Provide learner guidance: Share handout with tips. Demo Open Pixlr express (Efficient), which is mid-level.  (Internal process: semantic encoding)
6. Elicit performance: Participants upload photo from desktop for editing at Efficient level.  (Internal process: responding)
7. Provide Feedback: Answer questions and assist participants one-on-one.  (Internal process: reinforcement)
8. Assessment: Ask some basic recall questions about software, tips, and constraints.  (Internal process: retrieval & reinforcement)
9. Enhance retention and transfer: In one word, how do you plan to use it in your class? (e.g., lessons, projects, introductions) Invite them to a workshop on emergent technology to learn more about Pixlr.  (Internal process: retrieval & generalization)

Note: For more information on Pixlr, visit my blog on the topic. For more information on Gagne’s nine events of instruction, see my blog on that topic.

References

Gagné, R. M. (1985). The conditions of learning. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

Gagné, R. M., & Driscoll, M. P. (1988).  Essentials of learning for instruction (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Santa Meets the Common Core Standards

Image of Santa on sleigh pulled by reindeer

In search of standard-based instruction, teachers have been producing and purchasing products aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Certainly, they’d like to provide high interest topics for children. This is where Santa enters the picture. If you search for Common Core + Santa on TeachersPayTeachers.com (TPT), you’ll find 222 results!  I used Clement Clarke Moore’s Christmas poem, and the standards on speaking and listening, to create a literacy activity.

In my product, students are provided space to illustrate the story on each page to match the meaning of the text. Twelve vocabulary words are boldface typed within the poem with definitions provided in the glossary. The purpose is to let students take ownership of the poem by illustrating it and then practice reading it to their parents or other students in the school. This was a popular activity I used in my 3rd Grade class during language arts. Students were eager to learn the new words such as sugarplums, kerchief, and sash, so that they could accurately illustrate their self-made booklet.

Here are the correlating CCSS for Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • Kindergartners: #5. Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.
  • Grade 1 Students: #5. Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
  • Grade 2 Students: #5. Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories 
    or recounts of experiences when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
  • Grade 3 Students: #5. Create engaging audio recordings of stories or poems that demonstrate fluid reading at an understandable pace; add visual displays when appropriate to emphasize or enhance certain facts or details.

The poetry product featured above can be purchased online in my TPT store. You can find PDFs of all the CCSS and their applications to students with disabilities and English Language Learners at this site: http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards

Sandra Rogers,

Instructional Designer

Note: This post was previously published on this 12/19/13.

How to Upload Media and Create a Podcast Channel

Title page to tech project

Dear Teachers,

This learning module instructs and guides students on how to upload a media file to a podcast channel, specifically Podbean.com. It can be used to supplement any course content as a project. For instance, a student can produce an audio file on any topic and then publish it to a podcast channel as part of an oral language project. Poetry readings, musical performances, or reporting the weather are just a few ways to incorporate podcasting. This project could last several weeks.

Using emergent technologies is an important skill for the 21st century learner to apply, not only in class, but also in their personal learning networks, college, and future career. Moreover, this product can be used in K-12 schools to address the media skills embedded in the Common Core Standards (2010) for career and college readiness benchmarks. For instance, the English Language Arts Standard for speaking and listening in Grade 2 states (2.5 Presentation of Knowledge): “create audio recordings of stories or poems.” Podcasting would be an excellent vehicle for this task. A similar standard for presenting content in multimedia is included in grades 3-12 core standards.

The learning module includes the following components:
• a podcast interest and technology skill level questionnaire;
• a pretest and posttest on technical terminology (with answer keys);
• an 18-page PowerPoint presentation on the technical terminology;
• a K-W-L chart activity;
• a 7-minute screencast to demonstrate the procedures; (See YouTube video link below)
• a 6-page how-to guide with glossary to serve as a desk reference when performing the task;
• a student checklist of procedures and outcomes for self-assessment of the criteria;
• a rubric for the teacher to evaluate the project; and
* an 18-page teacher guide with research basis and instructional strategies.

Goal Statement: Students will successfully upload a media file to Podbean.com for an oral language project by following the steps in the screencast and supporting how-to guide. The learning context is during class time in the computer lab or on a home computer. Students will need to have already learned how to create an audio or video file and save it as a MP3/MP4 format on a flash drive for school work.

Get a preview of this product on Teacherrogers YouTube channel:
My YouTube Video Demonstration

I completed this project during my doctoral studies, so it includes the research basis for the use of podcasting. I think you’re really going to like this product, as I’ve put over a semester of effort into creating and pilot testing it! It’s for sale on TeachersPayTeachers in the Teacherrogers Store.

Your blogger,

Sandra Rogers

 

TeachersPayTeachers: Halloween Literacy Gaming Activity

Girl dressed for Halloween going trick-or-treating
Happy Halloween!

I just uploaded a new product that incorporates gaming as an instructional strategy. I used Halloween vocabulary and images to capture young children’s interest. Students can practice syllabification, reading, storytelling, and vocabulary when playing these games! This product contains directions and material for four different types of games to use during literacy centers: clapping out the syllables, vocabulary battle game, vocabulary flashcards, and storytelling. Each game would last 30 minutes, which is about the same amount of time segment in group rotation in a 2-hour literacy block.

This product includes the following items:

  • a game scorecard;
  • a paper candy reward system;
  • directions;
  • 24 different game cards with the vocabulary word, image, and the number of syllables, and
  • 24 vocabulary cards without the name or syllable count for testing purposes.

Vocabulary includes basic words like bat and hat, as well as multisyllabic ones like Halloween and October. I suggest printing the vocabulary on card stock and laminating them prior to use. I think students are really going to enjoy these activities. Hopefully, they will want to play them multiple times to become very familiar with the content vocabulary. I also suggest having the students create their own games and corresponding rules.

Here’s a sample game:

#2A: Vocabulary Battle Game: The objective of the game is to correctly read the word for each card drawn.

Learning Objective: Students will practice reading words correctly.

Game Rules: This game can be played with 2-4 players.

Step 1: Place vocabulary cards face down in a stack.

Step 2: Player 1 takes a card and tries to read it. Then he shows it to the other players to get feedback (correct or incorrect). If the student reads it correctly, then they keep the card. If not, then the card is placed in the “trash” pile to be reused.

Step 3: Player 2 repeats this action.

Step 4: After all the face down cards have been read, shuffle the deck of discarded cards to continue the game. The player with the most cards wins. Students redeem cards for candy or other reward at the end of the game.

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Visit my store on TeachersPayTeachers to purchase this product! I plan to do the same gaming products based on content vocabulary for each holiday.

Sandra Rogers