Edition 17 — Social media and Misinformation

by Kartik Chaturvedi

May 31, 2021

The Big Stories

Facebook will no longer stop the spread of a theory that COVID-19 was manufactured

As the coronavirus ‘lab leak’ origin theory gains scientific traction, Facebook has changed their misinformation policy to allow such posts and discussions, after banning them since the early days of the pandemic. Many news organizations have also been caught off-guard after new evidence and data surfaced last week amid calls for a second, more focused investigation into the origins of COVID-19. Most of these organizations are now reporting in detail on the same news that they called a conspiracy last year. While it’s reasonable that these social media platforms and networks must make certain efforts to stop misinformation, it is important they do so responsibly and not due to political or social reasons, but rather follow policies and regulations of the countries where they offer their service.

Twitter's Inconsistent Policies and Interference In India’s Politics

Speaking of regulations, Twitter is under fire in India for not complying with government regulations relating to national security and consumer privacy. While Twitter advocates claim the social media platform is an arbiter of free speech, that is far from the truth. Private companies like Twitter can have a great public image, and offer wonderful services that connect people around the world, but they cannot be accountable to anyone but their shareholders and advertisers (their main source of income). This is proven by the extremely inconsistent way Twitter has suspended accounts and labeled tweets in India. Meanwhile, governments are accountable solely to the public, and therefore should be the ones in charge of monitoring and safely ensuring free speech, as well as the bounds in which media companies can operate. Social media might be a central avenue for humanity to share thoughts and exchange information, but the opaque policies and corporate framework that they operate under can be deceptively manipulative.

More Interesting News

The Park That Made COVID Testing Possible

PCR testing has been used for years for early diagnosis of diseases, crime scene DNA testing, and most recently for coronavirus testing. The test consists of rapidly replicating DNA samples to easily study its contents, and the process involves cycles of heating and cooling. But since this thermal cycling can break down the enzymes that hold the DNA structure together, special heat-resistant bacteria is used in the process – bacteria that was found at Yellowstone more than 50 years ago.

Any alcohol causes damage to the brain, study finds

This story is for all of my friends who laughed at me when I said ‘I don’t drink.’ Alcohol is just as harmful as mercury – there is NO safe level. To put it in the words of the Oxford study that compared alcohol intake to brain scans, “the more people drank, the less the volume of their gray matter.”

Monkeys can change their accent to communicate with another species

It turns out monkey species that share the same territory know how to alter their accent to be understood better by the other species. This is fascinating and sounds a lot like code switching in humans that are multilingual or live in diverse communities.

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