Today, I stood before the Danish parliament on a public hearing on social media & democracy

As a researcher of online hate, I could have spent hours. But I had 10 minutes, so I had to be focused

The title was "The Myths About Social Media"

Here is what I said👇

The data is clear: We have a problem.

Citizens find online debates more hateful; the non-haters withdraw from the discussions; and politicians & public figures are harassed online.

But: There are myths about the causes. Solutions require correct problem-identification. (2/12)
Myth 1: A lot of misinfo on social media

No, research suggests there is little, shared by few & having small effects.

Those sharing misinfo are not dumb. But they have intense political animus, which motivates to share what fits their worldview, true or false.

This opens for new challenges:

1) The real problem is biased sharing. Even if everything is true, selective sharing will create a biased picture.

2) People can learn to spot fake news. The real problem is intellectual humility: getting them to trust & share real news. (4/12)
Myth 2: Social media makes people hateful.

No, research suggests that online hate reflects offline frustrations that make them hateful both online & offline.

The hateful are few in numbers but they are attracted to politics and, hence, are much more visible.

This opens for new challenges:

1) Long-terms solutions to online hate requires solving the causes of offline frustrations. No quick fixes exist.

2) As the hateful are attracted to politics, it takes effort to keep debates non-hostile. It requires clear & enforced rules.
Myth 3: Social media are echo chambers.

No, research shows that, for most, social media breaks the bubble. We are more connected to "the others" on social media than in our offline lives. That is why it feels unpleasant - because it is the most hateful "others" we meet.
This opens for new challenges:

1) Exposure to hate can help legitimize hate, in part because our views of the other political groups becomes biased.

1) If connectivity is the problem, short-term solutions involve focus on shielding against hate, not changing the haters. (8/12)
All in all, social media are not that mysterious.

For decision-makers, social media is a window into the most frustrated.

For activists, social media is simply a tool to effectively accomplish their political goals. People are pretty much the same, online and offline.
On this basis, I asked parliament to work on 4 solutions:

1) As the myths show, we need insight. Insist on openness & external oversight regarding data and algorithms from tech platforms.
2) Prioritize tools that can enable people to shield themselves from exposure to hateful content. (10/12)
3) Focus on democratic--not just digital--education. The problem is not that people are not tech savvy. The problem is lack of rationalism.

4) Invest in remedying the offline frustrations that drives online hate. Ending hate requires real change in the offline world. (11/12)
Those were my input!

The hearing launches the parliament's effort to improve democratic debate in the age of social media. Find more info on this important effort here:…

You can find my slides (incl references) here:…


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More from @M_B_Petersen

Jun 26
Do you need more evidence that support for bans on abortion are about controlling female sexuality?

Then let me tell your about a research study I did back in 2018.

It suggest that bans are attempts to impose convervatives’ *own* sexual preferences on society.

This is the study:…

In the study, I investigate the association between different political attitudes and orientations towards sexual partners and relationships. (2/XX)
A key focus is on Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA). RWA reflects a culturally conservative outlook and, especially, the delegation of control over life choices to traditional authorities.

And, yes, those high in RWA also stigmatize abortion:… (2/7)
Read 8 tweets
Jun 22
Right now, the Danish government & health authorities are announcing their strategy against COVID-19 for Fall & Winter '22 at a press meeting.

Documentation can be found here:… &…

I offer a brief overview in this 🧵 (1/6)
The explicit goals of the strategy are:

1) Protect the vulnerable
2) Avoid overburdening hospitals
3) Keep up economic activity
4) Avoid lockdowns

The strategy is foremost vaccine-based, not restriction-based.

The intention is to use existing mRNA vaccines.

As vaccines primarily protect against serious illness, the focus is to suppress this risk, not transmission. This is a shift compared to prior vaccine campaigns.
Read 6 tweets
Jun 13
Er Danmark ved at blive overtaget af radikal wokeness?

Ifølge et lille studie af folks holdninger (N=330), som @StefSelmer & jeg udførte med Epinion, er svaret klart "nej"

Det kan man glædes eller bekymres over. Men uanset så bør proportionerne være med i debatten.

🧵 (1/5)
Studiet er et pilotstudie i anden sammenhæng. Det lille N gør, at det ikke nødvendigvis er repræsentativt. Men:

82 % er uenige i, at blackface er problematisk

86 % er uenige i, at vi skal tage hensyn til etnisk baggrund ift. fx sangvalg

82 % er uenige i, at vi bør fjerne statuer relateret til slavehandel

81 % er enige i, at vi ikke bør ændre vores traditioner, selvom de måtte støde

71 % er uenige i, at vi bør tage særligt hensyn til folk med ikke-binære kønsidentiteter

Read 5 tweets
Jun 10
The final keynote of #bystander22 is by @jayvanbavel on "Morality in the Anthropocene".

We evolved in small-scale groups but is now connected in vast, social media network. What are the consequences? 1/17
As EO Wilson noted: "We have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology". How can we manage our ancient emotions in the modern technology environment? Contrast with Zuckerberg's notion of "moving fast and breaking things". 2/17
57 % of all humans use social media. The average user uses it 2.2 hours per day. On average, 5.7 years of your life will be used on social media. All this has emerged fast. 3/17
Read 17 tweets
Jun 10
At #bystander22 @CecilieTraberg talks about the role of social processes in judgments of misinformation.

Prior research mainly look at headlines & individual traits. Yet, we do not consume info in a social vacuum. We need to bring the social into the study of misinformation. 1/8
Source cues matter hugely according to work on persuasion. Social identity theory also suggest that factors like group membership is key. 2/8
In Study 1, accuracy of fake headlines is rated as well as the slant and credibility of the sources. Is the source linked to the perceived accuracy of the headline? The results show that this is the case. 3/8
Read 8 tweets
Jun 10
At #BYSTANDER22 @rvinsroom presents on whether we can reduce the spread of online misinfo by assigning user reputations that signal credibility.

Spoiler alert: No! But this null-finding is demonstrated using a cool new interactive open-source experimental platform. 1/7
A problem is that there are limited consequences of engaging with misinformation. Is it possible to leverage social identity processes? People have a desire to make positive impressions. These impressions can be curated online. 2/7
It is possible to change social media to disincentivize interaction with false news via reputation score systems. An individual will score points by spreading credible info and loss points by doing the opposite. This can create "necessary friction" between people & info. 3/7
Read 7 tweets

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