Be careful about the disinformation mafia during the crisis!

Stating that lynching campaigns are organized in digital media that attempt to discredit or even cancel individuals or institutions, experts stated that some troll accounts on social media have turned into a social media mafia. Emphasizing that the disinformation was done intentionally to harm, Assoc. Prof. Aylin Tutgun Ünal drew attention to the fact that the violence mafia in the social media attributed a purpose to the sharing and attacked with elements such as Trend Topic (TT), Hashtag (#), DM (Direct Message), and stated that they use tweets instead of bullets. Ünal also recommends that every information of unknown origin should be approached with suspicion against disinformation and that we should apply digital media literacy as individuals.

Tweeting instead of using bullets…

Üsküdar University, Faculty of Communication, Department of Journalism Assoc. Prof. Aylin Tutgun Ünal underlined the importance of digital media literacy against information pollution by drawing attention to the fact that social media platforms are used for disinformation and attack during times of crisis.

Disinformation violence make wounds

Expressing that disinformation and fake news occurring during the crisis are seen on social networks which are a part of our everyday lives from a 7-year old to a 70-year old around the world and it surrounds us just like a mafia, Assoc. Prof. Aylin Tutgun Ünal said, “Mafias, gangs and bullets that exist in the real world now surround us in digital media. We see the violence of disinformation and the wounds they cause moment by moment in digital media. There are lynching campaigns that attempt to discredit or even cancel individuals or institutions. There are now disinformation mafias on social media. People use tweets instead of bullets.”.

Lynch culture is no different from the mafia

Pointing out that a person can cancel their social status from society and social status when they become TT (Trend Topic) with mass hashtags for display of violence by other people, Assoc. Prof. Aylin Tutgun Ünal said, “The lynching culture, known as the cancell culture, is no different from the mafia. Now everyone has set up their own mafia, knowingly or unknowingly. There are brutal protests against an idea, and mass attacks so as to erase the person from society. We have seen what the abuse of social media can lead to with the increase in disinformation and fake news circulation in the crisis environment caused by the earthquake in our country.".

Social media mafia "troll accounts"

Dr. Aylin Tutgun Ünal said that social media has a mechanism that directly affects people and continued her remarks as follows:

“A person can attack whomever they want, swear, cast a shadow on the reputation of the other person, lie without facing any sanctions, and they think that they gain prestige with this. Troll accounts have turned into a social media mafia. Disinformation and fake news sharing increase during periods of intense national agenda, especially in times of crisis. People or even institutions that want to come to the fore, harbor bad intentions, try to opportunistically aim to make a profit or harm the people or institutions they target by spreading disinformation on social media, and they do this to a great extent. They show courage, whether from troll accounts or real accounts because it is thought that there is no sanction or criminal application.”.

Disinformation spreads to cause harm

Stating that disinformation can be defined as deliberately spreading false information with the aim of causing harm, Assoc. Prof. Aylin Tutgun Ünal said, “Disinformation has the purpose of deliberately misleading, it manipulates, it becomes disconnected and out of the context. There may also be claims made by people with a certain disposition through pure fabrication. It is possible to list the reasons for the spread of disinformation, as people cannot distinguish between true and false information, do not know how to filter the information they see on social media, or not be motivated to confirm the information. In other words, people tend to believe information coming from the source they believe in. Again, if it contradicts previously believed information, there may be a tendency to reject it without investigating its accuracy. In addition, the emotional state of the people also has an effect on disinformation. Due to the need to reinforce their own feelings and thoughts, they can spread disinformation without confirming its accuracy. We can also list factors such as partisanship or phenomenon.”.

The most dangerous is to spread a sense of purpose

Pointing out that, we are facing inferences from the content of a shared tweet, perception management, and intention readings no matter whether it is true or false, Assoc. Prof. Aylin Tutgun Ünal said, “Sharing has a purpose and this purpose is gradually being realized. By spreading the sense of purpose, the fuse is ignited. Making inferences by including a community, an opinion, a religious belief, a culture is like shooting a collective fire. While the perception of purpose is spreading, it is attacked with social media components such as Trend Topic (TT), Hashtag (#), DM (Direct Message).”.

Assoc. Prof. Aylin Tutgun Ünal made evaluations about the social media components used as an element of attack:

Making a trend topic: We can say that it is a very common attack technique in our country and around the world. The trolls targeting the concentration of politicians are waging gang wars in every space they find. Gangs attacking both their targets and each other are in a hurry to find a place, they get paid for these works, they attack as they get it. They spread through the hashtag mechanism.

‘DM me!’: The trolls are organizing themselves, they are attacking masses. Thus, the potency increases. They have their own passwords like ‘DM me!'. They can get support from advertising agencies and social media experts in their attack strategies. They are researching who is affected by which images and expressions. This is where taking advantage of the emotional burst on social media comes into play. It is even possible to perform perception management with a visual. Subsequently, an attack on the subject of the event takes place with unrealistic meanings.

Individual digital media literacy should be implemented

Stating that Twitter is used more in the violence mafia in social media, Assoc. Prof. Aylin Tutgun Ünal said, “If social awareness and reconciliation cannot be achieved, the media will continue to exist by turning into a spiral of violence and a mafia environment. We can say that achieving digital media literacy as an individual measure is one of the necessary solution processes. The most effective solution is to ensure that the person is a conscious user, and the person should do this by themselves with self-control. The second solution will be legal applications. The implementation of the social media law, which has been exemplary in European countries for years, can also be considered as another precaution in our country under appropriate conditions, especially in times of crisis.”.

Attacks in the cyber world do serious damage

Emphasizing the need to raise awareness about security in all circumstances, Assoc. Prof. Aylin Tutgun Ünal said, “The images that have been made as memes and posted on social media are not deleted again. Millions of social media users who do not question and research may think fake information is real. Assassinations in the virtual world cause serious harm to people and institutions. Therefore, individuals, institutions and organizations should be encouraged to use technology beneficially and awareness studies should be expanded. The damages and disruptions caused by unconscious sharing reveal how important the right use of social media is in times of crisis.”.

Uncertain sources should be treated with suspicion.

Assoc. Prof. Aylin Tutgun Ünal said that the "Confirmation Kit in the Time of Crisis", prepared by the Directorate of Communications, Disinformation Fighting Center in order to prevent disinformation, may be useful in terms of practicality and shared her recommendations as follows:

Be suspicious of any unspecified information on social media.

Question the source of any shared information.

Follow official sources.

Be skeptical of shared WhatsApp screenshots.

Question a claim from many reliable sources.

Get referenced safe sources.

Üsküdar News Agency (ÜNA)