“You’re never going to reason someone away from their belief,” Offline with Jon Favreau, Abbie Richards on Fighting Disinformation on TikTok

How do we combat disinformation and misinformation? Can we inoculate people from the strains of misinformation in their lives? This conversation is mostly about politics, but I see so many parallels between the pseudoscience and self-promotion we see in the health and fitness space and the opportunists manipulating information to influence politics and public health.

I’m a month late for sharing this one, but I hope you will go back and give this conversation a listen. Abbie Richards is apparently a big deal on TikTok, one of many social media experiences I haven’t yet welcomed into my life. However, I love hearing the hard work she’s been doing to reach younger-than-me audiences to help them learn to recognize misinformation and disinformation, hoping to help them be less susceptible to their messaging going forward.

This is a very thoughtful interview, discussing the challenge Richards experiences in trying to avoid amplifying dangerous messaging while also giving her viewers enough information to have context. She talks about how she’s always struggling to find the balance between talking about a harm without adding to the harm.

Any conversation about misinformation and disinformation online inevitably returns to discussions of the sales model of social media, and how algorithms are designed to push us towards more and more emotionally charged information. It makes me wonder how the algorithms are influencing the health and fitness information we are all accessing as well. Do they push us towards the more and more macho, toxically masculine content in lifting? I’m pretty quick to call out sexism in lifting culture, and I’m not going to apologize for that. However, I also wonder to what degree technology creates feedback loops that “teach” creators to keep pushing their messages in sexist ways.

If this is the case, how do we counteract this? Call it out, of course. But also, we need to keep lifting up platforms that share more evidence-based information. Spencer Nadolski seems to have taken the route of fighting fire with fire, with some funny memes and other humorous content created in bite-sized pieces. We also need to continue to avoid amplifying the harmful information and the lifting up good. Like, follow, and share responsible voices that you want other people want to see. For that matter, like, follow and share my articles here, too!

There are systemic issues at play here that I’m not sure individuals can do much about. Write our congresspeople, ask them to hold social media platforms responsible, to curate healthier communities online. Encourage balance in our own lives, spend less time online and more time with folks IRL. These aren’t easy issues. If you have other ideas for solutions, I’d love to hear about them!

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