How Facebook and Google Accidentally Created a Perfect Ecosystem for Targeted Disinformation

Stöcker, Christian; Grimme, Christian; Preuss, Mike; Takes, Frank W.; Waldherr, Annie

Online platforms providing information and media content follow certain goals and optimize for certain metrics when deploying automated decision making systems to recommend pieces of content from the vast amount of media items uploaded to or indexed by their platforms every day. These optimization metrics differ markedly from, for example, the so-called news factors journalists traditionally use to make editorial decisions. Social networks, video platforms and search engines thus create content hierarchies that reflect not only user interest but also their own monetization goals. This sometimes has unintended, societally highly problematic effects: Optimizing for metrics like dwell time, watch time or “engagement” can promote disinformation and propaganda content. This chapter provides examples and discusses relevant mechanisms and interactions.