City News

“User-beware” social media model to blame for anti-lockdown protest

Facebook and social media has a role to play in amplifying fringe movements, according to Reset Australia. Photo: Police Multimedia.


Reset Australia is demanding greater transparency about how Facebook’s algorithms work.

Reset Australia is the local affiliate of the global initiative working to counter digital threats to democracy and society.

Executive director Chris Cooper told City Hub that the anti-lockdown protest on Saturday was organised on social media.

“We know that a lot of people who attend these protests and who populate the kind of groups where they organise, have been recommended to join those groups by Facebook’s algorithm,” he said.

He said while some people who attended those rallies are believers in wild conspiracy and misinformation, other people are expressing their frustration.

Lockdowns create the perfect environmental factors that pull people down rabbit holes.

“When people are in lockdown, they’re often concerned and worried, they’re spending a lot more time online and on social media,” he said.

Reset Australia is calling for the government to mandate platforms publish a “live list” of the most viral content surrounding COVID-19 so that misinformation can be seen and tracked.

New research by NewsGuard this month provided to the World Health Organisation found that Facebook was recommending new conspiracy groups to users including anti-mask Pages after they interacted with other health misinformation Pages.

It found when users click the ‘like’ button on an anti-vaccine Facebook Page, a ‘Related Pages,’ drop-down recommends more anti-vaccine Pages, as well as Pages that publish health misinformation.

“It’s in Facebook’s business interests to remain opaque and continue to push what is essentially PR spin around how much COVID misinformation content they’re taking down, what they never report on is how many people have seen that content before it was taken down, or how much of that content was amplified to users by their algorithms,” said Cooper.

Glebe local

Grace Morgan-Cocks has lived in Glebe for two years since moving from Adelaide. She said the fact that there is always something happening in Glebe has taken some getting used to.

She stepped outside on Saturday to investigate noise at the corner of Glebe Point Road. “I was standing with a neighbour when a man came yelling towards us to “take off those f****** masks.””

“It’s concerning to think that the concentration of so much violence and anger in our community could occur so close to where I live,” she said.

Grace reached out online to ask fellow residents about how she should do her grocery shopping that day on the Facebook group Glebe Locals.

“I don’t really interact with Facebook much, but Glebe Locals Facebook group is so welcoming and there is a real sense of community,” she said.

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