Both advocacy groups and political leaders tend to assume that misinformation persists on social media because the platforms are unwilling to get rid of it—a gross and unhelpful oversimplification. Some of the largest technology companies in the world spend tens of billions of dollars each year to maintain the integrity of discourse on their platforms. So why does misinformation persist?
False and misleading content continues to go viral day after day, week after week on nearly every platform. In Kenya, Chile and any number of other countries around the world, the spread of misinformation is eroding trust in democracy, in electoral processes and in our fellow citizens. In the U.S., as we approach the midterm elections in the fall, our digital spaces are already awash in deliberate falsehoods about public health issues, global events and even the results of our last election.
To hold platforms accountable, we have to understand them first—and to do that, we must first accept that misinformation is not one problem, but rather a whole set of problems.