UW professor, former Storm player on how lies are spread on social media

Aug 5, 2019, 11:58 AM
fake news, disinformation...
A fake news story is positioned near ads from major global corporations on The Red Elephants website. Experts say it’s not so easy for brands to make sure they don’t end up on websites that publish false stories. (The Red Elephants via AP)
(The Red Elephants via AP)

We see it almost every time a major crisis happens: Rumors fly on social media, people begin to Tweet out what they believe are facts, and disinformation spreads. Studying exactly how that happens is University of Washington professor — and former Seattle Storm player — Dr. Kate Starbird.

UW scores $5 million for new center studying fake news

“Social media opens up a lot of different kinds of conversations, where you’re not just talking to one person, you’re not just one person broadcasting to a large number of people,” Starbird told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross.

Having that wide-reaching platform can be a powerful thing, from the egg profile on Twitter, to the Washington Post. Because of that, it makes everyone vulnerable to being fooled, whether accidentally or as part of a larger strategy to influence the public.

That being so, there’s a marked difference between misinformation and disinformation.

“Rumors are actually unintentional misinformation,” Starbird described. “But when you talk about disinformation, disinformation is intentional.”

That includes concerted, thought-out attempts to spread lies on social media. That can come from virtually anybody, from domestic and foreign actors, to lies being “used by your own government against you.”

“Disinformation erodes our trust and information — it sows doubt, it makes us confused about whether or not we can trust something. It also begins to sow division in society, so it amplifies differences,” she noted.

That’s had Starbird teaching her students at UW about the intricacies of Russian disinformation in America, and how it aims to keep the U.S. divided politically.

When those lies spread, it becomes difficult to find the truth and govern effectively (or in some cases, at all).

“One of the theoretical perspectives we’re working right now on is how Russian disinformation works, what its purposes are — (they’re) really to sort of undermine our common ground, where we can’t come together to agree on what is actually happening. We don’t have a shared understanding, and therefore we can’t actually govern.”

UW officially adopts course fighting fake news

This comes as UW recently scored $5 million for a new center to study fake news and misinformation. The center is set to open in the fall of 2019 at the UW Information School, and its credo is to “resist strategic misinformation, promote an informed society, and strengthen democratic discourse,” according to UW.

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross

Freedom, vaccine mandate...
Dave Ross

Ross: Freedom requires level of unselfishness many in our country don’t have

Total freedom requires a level of unselfishness that doesn't come naturally for a lot of people, as we've seen firsthand with the state vaccine mandate.
10 hours ago
car tabs, Orting...
Dave Ross

Ross: Did you vote for I-976 car tab cuts in 2019? Wish granted

While a vaccine mandate cost the ferry system 7% of its staff, let’s remember this is happening in a state that was ready to impose bigger cuts two years ago.
1 day ago
Dave Ross

Ross: May we live long and prosper with our vaccine choices

Talk show host Dennis Praeger decided to put it all on the line to prove he’s right about vaccines.
2 days ago
Flu vaccine...
MyNorthwest Staff

A new ‘universal’ flu-COVID shot on the horizon, says local MD

Mercer Island’s Dr. Gordon Cohen discusses how future iterations of the COVID mRNA vaccine could also treat seasonal flu.
3 days ago
Crypto power plant...
Dave Ross

Ross: The troubling downside behind megawatts of crypto-power

Power plants feeding Bitcoin miners will create jobs, but they’ll do it by pumping CO2 into the air in service of creating more of the currency.
3 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: The real reason people don’t want to return to work

The extra unemployment benefits were cut off in September and most states elected not to continue them. Yet, millions of workers are still holding out.
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
UW professor, former Storm player on how lies are spread on social media