Five Ways You Are Being Manipulated Online and How To Counter It

After going through your newsfeed on Facebook or Twitter, do you sometimes come away with the feeling that you don't know what to believe anymore?

If so, you are not the only one.

Along with marketing, social media seems to be dominated by propaganda and the reason why I know this is because I've spent most of my career in the belly of the propaganda machines of political personalities and organizations.

I was fortunate enough to have been given the chance to share my observations of the development of propaganda on social media spanning some 13 years with Philippine Star columnist Jarius Bondoc on his radio program. Despite trying to cram in as much information as I can in the 10 minute interview, I don't think I was able to go enough into the ways people are being manipulated and how to counter them.


In the years before social media became ubiquitous, propaganda would turn up in the speeches and leaflets. Over the decades, propaganda has steadily seeped into the front pages of newspapers and news story line-ups of broadcasts. Today, one encounters propaganda on their social media news feeds in the form of links, photos, and videos posted by unsuspecting friends, family, co-workers, and business associates -- people whom you trust and respect.

Being aware that there is an enormous amount of propaganda making its way into your social media newsfeed should be enough to cause you to be entertain a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to whatever you come across on social media or even on your online searches.

Whether they admit it or not, some so-called news organizations are either allowing themselves to be used for propaganda or are, in fact, a vital part of a propaganda machine -- a sheep in wolves clothing.

Now, if we can't trust the news organizations to tell us the truth about what is happening, what can we trust?

This may be a hard thing to swallow, but the truth is, you can't trust anyone these days. The burden of figuring out whether something is true or not falls squarely on your shoulders.

It is your responsibility to, at the very least, maintain some objectivity by suspending judgement or delaying a conclusion on whatever it is you encounter online. 

The further extent of guarding yourself from falling for some manner of deception or being manipulated into acting against your best interests is to at least be aware of deceptive and manipulative practices enough to spot them outright.

The furthest step, which only a few can actually do, is to equip oneself with the ability to seek out and analyze data.

Now in identifying ways in which people are being deceived and manipulated online, one fairly recent video that sums it up well is "5 Things Shills Don't Want You To Know" by Stuff They Don't Want You To Know.


Of the five ways that shills manipulate opinion online, there are three that I've noticed being perpetrated during the last election season here in the Philippines:
  1. They use of sock puppets (fake Facebook/Twitter accounts), meat puppets (actual people with real Facebook accounts who may or may not also control a number of sock puppets), and bots (computer programs that control multiple sock puppets) to overwhelm opinions of those against the position they are supporting. At times this can be called astro turfing, which is making it appear that a larger number of people support or are against a particular position.
  2. They use "fake news" articles or manufacture "fake organizations" to get people to believe something that is not true in order for them to support the view or position that they want supported.
  3. They manipulate online polls and surveys on legitimate news websites.
Five Ways You Are Being Manipulated Online and How To Counter It Five Ways You Are Being Manipulated Online and How To Counter It Reviewed by Paul Farol on 8:28 PM Rating: 5

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