I’m Paula Santolaya, reporting live from SANTOLIVE in my virtual reality. Have opinions, or suggestions? Post them in the comments section down below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We know from experience that the Internet has massively opened its doors to the publicity of any business. Companies claim their digital space on social media, where their potential customers are.
In this context, it is known that many influencers participate in advertising campaigns promoting beauty products, fashionable restaurants, or vacation packages in exchange for money. But they are also cannon fodder to be used by clandestine companies that are dedicated to spreading false information in order to attack the democratic institutions of a country, its governments or opposition parties. They intend to sow discord and interfere in democratic processes with viral conspiracies through social media.
This trend towards digital misinformation emerged in 2018, after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a political consultancy linked to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump that in 2016 handled data from 87 million Facebook users to whom it sent electoral messages.
Recently, alarms were raised when several French and German influencers received an offer from the public relations agency Fazze to spread false information about the vaccine developed by Pfizer through their social media channels. According to some of these youtubers, the company offered them 2,000 euros to share videos, photos or texts arguing the increase in the mortality rate associated with the vaccine.
The European Union has stepped up its efforts during the pandemic to combat the spread of fake news and misinformation online; and cooperates with online platforms to encourage them to promote authorized sources and suppress content that is false or misleading. For its part, the United Nations has launched the Pause campaign for users to pause before sharing unreliable information about the pandemic on social media.
But there is a legal gap in the regulation of the content of digital platforms. For this reason, a regulation is necessary that obliges advertisers and the advertising industry to assume a commitment to self-regulation.
For their part, governments should accelerate their digital literacy plans so that citizens can develop critical digital thinking as soon as possible to protect them from the misinformation noise that is sometimes produced on social media.