People remember when governments lie to them and it lowers their satisfaction in government officials.
- A recent study measured how the public's trust in government differs when exposed to rumors, government denials, and subsequent verification of the initial rumors.
- The study, conducted in China, also examined whether any changes in trust lasted over a three-week period.
- The results suggest that governments that deem negative information as "fake news" may persuade some people, but over the long term it can cost them in credibility and public satisfaction.
Credit: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images<p><br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The ability to label claims and explanations that the authorities deem objectionable as fake has long been regarded as a power," the researchers wrote. "Because the revelation of the falsehood of government denials could erode the government's power, it is important to investigate its consequences, particularly in the authoritarian setting."</p><p>In the study, the researchers conducted a survey on three groups of participants. Each group was shown different information regarding a new automobile registration policy, and they were also asked general questions about demographic information and political interests. The study explains:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The first group was exposed to a rumor regarding the government's automobile registration policy (<em>rumor group</em>), the second group was exposed to the government's denial of the rumor (<em>denial group</em>), and the third group was exposed to an event in which the rumor initially denied by the government was verified as true (<em>verification group</em>)."</p><p>Each group then reported how much they believed in the initial rumor and the government denial. The denial and verification groups were also asked to rate their satisfaction with the government's handling of automobile registration.</p><p>The results showed that government denial effectively decreased belief in the rumor, compared to the group that was exposed only to the rumor. Meanwhile, being exposed to a verification of the rumor increased belief in the rumor and decreased belief in the denial. Also, the verification group reported being slightly less satisfied with the government.</p>
Design of survey 1
Credit: Wang et al.<p>But do these effects last? After all, <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/40982891" target="_blank">past research</a> suggests that the effects of persuasive communication — say, a negative political ad smearing a candidate — tend to disappear within days.</p><p>To find out, the researchers conducted a follow-up survey three weeks after the first. This time, the survey included only two groups: the verification group from the first survey, and a group of new participants. Both groups were exposed to a rumor and then a government denial.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The difference between the two groups was simply that one of them had previously experienced the revelation of the government's false denial of an online rumor, while the other group did not have such an experience," the researchers wrote.</p><p>The results showed that the verification group — that is, people who had weeks earlier been shown that the government had lied to them — was much less likely to believe in the government's denial. What's more, the verification group was also less satisfied with the government.</p>
Design of survey 2
Wang et al.<p>The findings suggest that governments can lose credibility over the long term when they call something "fake news" but it later proves true.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"As discussed earlier, while authoritarian countries can be awash with rumors and fake news, it is less frequent for the government's false denials to be caught due to the lack of independent news media and fact-checking organizations," the researchers wrote.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It is therefore a vivid and memorable experience to see the government's denial bluntly shown to be false. Unsurprisingly, such an experience would make people less willing to believe a new denial from the government, especially if it is somewhat similar to the one that had been shown to be false."</p><p>Ultimately, calling "fake news" on negative information does seem to persuade some people. But it seems to be a costly short-term strategy, one that comes with the added cost of a dissatisfied public.</p>
New research reveals the extent to which groupthink bias is increasingly being built into the content we consume.
- When ownership of news sources is concentrated into the hands of just a handful of corporations, the kind of reporting that audiences get to see is limited and all the more likely to be slanted by corporate interests.
- Newsroom employment has declined dramatically over the past decade, and this has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The findings of a new University of Illinois study suggest that Washington journalists operate in insular microbubbles that are vulnerable to consensus seeking. If the reporters on the Hill are feeding America copycat news information, we are all at risk of succumbing to groupthink.
Deregulation and the rise of new media<p>Up until the 1980s, the federal government worked to <a href="https://billmoyers.com/story/media-consolidation-should-anyone-care/" target="_blank">prevent media consolidation</a> in partnership with the FCC. But under Reagan, many of the existing regulations were shelved, giving corporations greater leeway in acquiring local news outlets.</p><p>The deregulatory trend persisted, arguably culminating with Clinton's 1996 <a href="http://www.commoncause.org/research-reports/National_050905_Fallout_From_The_Telecommunications_Act_2.pdf" target="_blank">Telecommunications Act</a>. A watershed moment for news media homogeneity, the law essentially permitted corporations to amass large numbers of local newspapers and news stations, granting hegemons access to almost every household in America.</p>Traditional news outlets have been suffering for years with the rise of cable networks and the advent of web publishing. With free content constantly available online, many outlets have given up the ghost and shut down print and broadcast. Newsroom employment has <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/20/u-s-newsroom-employment-has-dropped-by-a-quarter-since-2008/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">declined dramatically</a> over the past decade, and this has only been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/apr/09/coronavirus-us-newspapers-impact" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exacerbated by the COVID-19</a> pandemic.
Record distrust in the media industry<p>There's never been a time in American history when the sources of information were so doubted. Even <a href="https://www.cjr.org/special_report/the-fall-rise-and-fall-of-media-trust.php" target="_blank">after Watergate</a>, trust in the media stood at 74 percent. At last count, <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/1597/confidence-institutions.aspx" target="_blank">Gallup found</a> that just 20 percent of American have confidence in print and broadcast journalism, two more percentage points than TV news received in the same poll.</p><p>There is a growing concern that news media is biased, that reporters don't just report but curate and editorialize, and that the money behind the news has an impact on what is reported and how. This suspicion is fodder for conspiracy theorists who vilify the mainstream media and offer alternative facts to what is available. Playing on people's fears, alternative outlets online are picking up steam and spreading misinformation (and deliberate disinformation). </p><p>For example, although many leading news outlets – including The Washington Post, The Independent, The New York Times and even Fox News – independently debunked the "Pizzagate" conspiracy as soon as it began to spread in 2016, media coverage of the story has steadily risen throughout the past year.</p>
Fewer journalists means fewer voices<p>One factor in Americans' diminishing trust in the news is that there are fewer journalists, especially local journalists, that viewers can turn to as distinct voices. Lack of local coverage and the rise of homogeneous, sensationalist journalism are perpetuating distrust and driving many Americans to look for news elsewhere – and leaving them susceptible to manipulation. </p> <p>As mentioned earlier, print media has been <a href="https://www.poynter.org/business-work/2020/here-are-the-newsroom-layoffs-furloughs-and-closures-caused-by-the-coronavirus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hit hard</a>, and broadcast journalism is also feeling the pain. With lots of newsroom layoffs and closures, having fewer journalists means exposure to fewer perspectives. This has created a situation where there is less original reporting, with more repurposing of others' stories and less fact checking, thereby contributing to the spread of misinformation. </p><p>Lack of local news has far reaching effects on democracy. One study from <a href="https://www.kcl.ac.uk/policy-institute/assets/cmcp/local-news.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">King's College London</a> found that communities without local community news outlets have less public engagement and greater distrust of public institutions. </p><p>"We can all have our own social media account, but when local papers are depleted or in some cases simply don't exist, people lose a communal voice," Martin Moore, the author of the study, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/sep/29/local-newspapers-closing-down-communities-withering" target="_blank">remarked</a>. "They feel angry, not listened to and more likely to believe malicious rumour."</p>
Mainstream media and fake news<p> Ironically, while the erosion of mainstream media is contributing to the rise of misinformation and alternative news, when outlets attempt to expose fake news, it often backfires, <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23808985.2020.1759443" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">propelling its dissemination</a>. Plenty of news consumers first encounter conspiracies and disinformation on the news, but rather than building trust, <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/media/394352-poll-72-percent-say-traditional-outlets-report-news-they-know-to-be-fake-false" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">72 percent of Americans</a> believe that traditional outlets are the ones with the agenda. </p><p> And who can blame them? The parroting of identical headlines across consolidated newsrooms doesn't help instill confidence. Take for example this compilation of "local news" talking heads repeating the same script: </p><p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_fHfgU8oMSo" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> </p><p> All of these reporters are part of the <a href="http://sbgi.net/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sinclair Broadcast Group</a>. It's hard to deny the dangers of corporate consolidation of news media when confronted with damning clips like this, and Sinclair is out for even more control. An attempted acquisition in 2017 would have put Sinclair stations in 72 percent of households with a television, but the deal was <a href="https://www.niemanlab.org/2019/08/when-it-comes-to-the-consolidation-of-local-news-companies-american-worry-a-lot-more-about-political-bias-than-about-newsroom-cutbacks/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">struck down</a> by Tribune. </p><p> This is a huge amount of influence for one company, or person, to have. In an election year, this is even more pertinent. </p>
Social media algorithms and information bubbles<p>Just as more Americans distrust mainstream news, the majority get their facts on social media. This wouldn't be a problem per se, but the way online news is delivered to consumers <a href="https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/social-media-2020-us-election" target="_self">perpetuates echo chambers</a> and information bubbles. </p><p>Social media deliberately surfaces content to individuals that confirm their views and echo previously viewed or shared content. The algorithms amplify biases and screen out dissenting opinions. Before you know it, other voices are blocked from your feed, leaving you in an echo chamber. This doesn't just apply to news, but also to targeted ads and campaigns designed for microcommunities with shared attributes. </p> <p>It has never been easier to convince so many people to believe stories that aren't necessarily true – lack of trust, consolidation of news outlets, the contraction of journalism, and the pervasiveness of web news is creating isolated information bubbles that many of us now find ourselves stuck in. People naturally want to read news that confirms their beliefs. </p><p>When infotainment is commoditized and served up for quick and easy consumption, critical thinking takes a back seat.</p>
Finding the facts on your own<p>With quantified evidence of journalistic groupthink and information bubbles among those who consume political information, is there hope for open dialogue and a variety of perspectives? </p><p>Ultimately, yes. However, this won't likely be coming from the news media. Choosing not to be misled and seeking out a variety of opinions and perspectives is something that each individual will likely have to do on their own, even if it means questioning one's fundamental beliefs. This entails verifying the information you read, actively engaging with people outside of your comfortable echo chamber, and even changing your mind when confronted with hard evidence. </p><p>Finding the facts on your own can be tough, but if we can't rely on the news to give us the news, there's no other choice. </p>
Mexico City, already progressive, takes more steps to protect its LGBT+ citizens.
- Mexico City has just issued a ban protecting its citizens from "conversion therapy."
- "Conversion therapy" is a loose term covering a wide variety of "treatments" which claim to alter a person's sexuality.
- With the law, Mexico City joins a small club of countries, provinces, and municipalities with such a law.
The ashes in the dustbin of history, examined.<p>Conversion therapy refers to a wide array of procedures that ostensibly alter a person's sexual orientation. These can include anything from trying to "pray the gay away" to aversion therapies that border torture. Variations of the idea of curing homosexuality have been around since the dawn of modern psychology. The amount of acceptance that the concept enjoyed waxed and waned as our understanding of sexuality evolved.</p><p>Sigmund Freud famously declared homosexuality "nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation" in a letter to the mother of a gay man who sought his help in "curing" her son. In the same letter, Freud expressed doubt that any therapy could reliably alter human sexuality in a meaningful <a href="http://www.openculture.com/2014/09/freud-letter-on-homosexuality.html" target="_blank">way</a>. </p><p>His daughter, an influential psychologist in her own right, felt differently, suggesting that such a treatment could exist and describing homosexual tendencies in terms of neurotic illness. In the United States, several psychologists argued that such behavior could be "cured" through a variety of procedures, such as electroshock treatment, lobotomy, aversive conditioning, and confrontational therapy often indistinguishable from <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion_therapy#United_States" target="_blank">abuse</a>. </p><p>After <a href="https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/5-times-rioting-worked" target="_blank">Stonewall </a>and the rise of modern views of human sexuality, most psychologists and their associations stopped considering homosexuality as a disease. </p><p>In the 21<sup>st</sup> century, the American Psychological Association asked its members to "avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts by promoting or promising change in sexual orientation when providing assistance to individuals distressed by their own or others' sexual orientation." Similar actions have taken place around the world. Recently, the United Nations' expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identify called for a global ban on the <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1066652" target="_blank">practice</a>. </p><p>Despite these efforts and others like them, some forms of conversion therapy continue to exist, and a few people still preach its benefits.</p><p>This is rather dangerous. While no widely accepted study demonstrates the effectiveness of conversion therapy, credible studies show its adverse outcomes. People who undergo these discredited treatments are at a higher risk of suicide, anxiety, depression, and <a href="https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0735-7028.33.3.249" target="_blank">drug use</a>. </p>
Who isn’t as progressive as Mexico City yet? Where is progress being made?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyMjQ0NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMTY0NTc0NH0.9gotuBiC6Yc63J7V5YTdaeS8XOHcIOHn1jqQci1L0MA/img.png?width=1245&coordinates=83%2C-1%2C84%2C1&height=700" id="b7b0c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dc3fed01a9cad38a35633e2ef0fccec3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Areas in dark blue have issued bans on conversion therapy. Light blue signifies a case by case ban. Areas in yellow are/have considered bans. The grey areas offer no protections against conversion therapy.
By Stinger20 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66533359<p>The above map shows the various places around the world where conversion therapy is banned, legal, or being challenged. Many of the locations shown in yellow are making significant progress towards a ban of this harmful group of procedures. As you might expect, the details of the laws in effect vary by location. Some of the prohibitions are <em>de facto </em>rather than explicit, some only apply to medical professionals carrying out these procedures, and some are enforced not by law but by the mutual agreement of psychologists.</p><p>The United Kingdom has taken substantial steps towards a ban, with the NHS and the major psychological and counseling associations of the UK condemning the practice. The government has promised to study the issue in detail before moving forward with legislation that could end the practice. Several organizations <a href="https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2020/06/30/religion-lgbt-homophobia-conversion-therapy-ozanne-foundation-islam-christianity-judaism/" target="_blank">continue to advocate</a> for law immediately settling the matter.</p><p>In India, Prince <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manvendra_Singh_Gohil" target="_blank">Manvendra Singh Gohil</a> revealed that he had endured <a href="https://www.out.com/news/2020/7/27/gay-indian-prince-was-subjected-electroshock-conversion-therapy" target="_blank">electroshock therapy</a> as a young man after coming out to his less than supportive parents. Since coming out in 2006, he has worked with various charities to help LGBT+ individuals and even <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/prince-manvendra-singh-gohil-palace-lgbt-people-a8146491.html" target="_blank">opened up his palace grounds</a> for those who were forced out of their families for who they are. His opening up comes alongside protests in India against the <a href="https://theconversation.com/lgbtq-conversion-therapy-in-india-how-it-began-and-why-it-persists-today-140316" target="_blank">practice</a>. <br> <br> In the United States, discussions of a ban have taken place in many areas not currently protected by one. LGBT+ organizations in those states without bans are <a href="https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-involved/trevor-advocacy/50-bills-50-states/about-conversion-therapy/" target="_blank">actively campaigning for them</a><a href="https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-involved/trevor-advocacy/50-bills-50-states/about-conversion-therapy/" target="_blank"></a>. The state of Minnesota attempted to pass legislation to that effect last year, but that portion of the bill was cut out. Activists have taken to the local level as they prepare to try <a href="https://mspmag.com/arts-and-culture/the-fight-to-ban-conversion-therapy-in-minnesota/" target="_blank">again</a>. </p><p>Mexico City's ban is entirely in character for a city with a reputation of a protector of LGBT+ rights. In 2009, it was the first place in Mexico to legalize gay marriage and institute a variety of legal <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20100102102038/http:/www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34514521/ns/world_news" target="_blank">equalities</a>. Gay Rights have been slower to gain respect in the rest of <a href="https://www.borderreport.com/regions/mexico/baja-california-state-congress-says-no-to-gay-marriage/" target="_blank">Mexico</a>, though its Supreme Court stands ready to protect the rights of LGBT+ individuals in states that have dragged their feet on adopting federal law equalizing <a href="https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/mexicos-legal-battle-to-establish-same-sex-marriage-may-finally-be-coming-to-a-head/" target="_blank">marriage</a>. </p>
State and local governments are hiring contact tracers to contain the spread of novel coronavirus.
- Demand for coronavirus contact tracers has made it one of the fastest-growing jobs in the United States.
- Contact tracers reach out to people who may have been infected with the virus. They answer questions, provide information, and encourage people to stay home.
- Though contact tracing is not new, states and counties hoping to reopen will need a strong workforce to stave off a COVID-19 resurgence.
April saw the U.S. economy in a shambolic nose dive. The unemployment rate rose to a near-historic 14.7 percent, with more than 20 million people filing claims. After adding 2.5 million jobs in May, the economy enjoyed a slight comeback—although the current unemployment rate of 13.3 percent remains higher than any time since 1948.
For those furloughed in the pandemic, these statistics may tender some hope. Shuttered companies are reopening and recruiting, while industries that saw a boom amid pandemic-induced demand continue to hire. LinkedIn data shows that 1.5 million entry-level jobs are currently available in the United States. If we can fend off a coronavirus resurgence—big if—the upturn may continue.
To manage that, however, we'll need to be better prepared to test for coronavirus and trace its transmission. That's why many state and local governments are hiring contact tracers.
Tracing COVID-19's path
Contact tracers help stop the spread of a disease by contacting those who may be infected and not know it.
In an interview with ProPublica, Dr. Emily Gurley, an associate scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, described a contact tracer's role as "part disease detective, part social work, part therapist."
The work starts with a case investigator and a patient confirmed, or suspected, to have COVID-19. The case investigator works to develop a timeline of people whom the patient had contact with before symptoms appeared. The timeline creates a list of contacts that is handed off to a contact tracer.
The tracer locates the contacts to inform them they may have been infected with coronavirus (for privacy, a patient's name and particulars are never provided). The tracer offers information, answers questions, and points to helpful resources. They then encourage the contact to stay home voluntarily and maintain social distance for fourteen days after the last potential exposure.
"The real advantage of contact tracing is to snuff out emerging or reemerging transmission cycles," Sten Vermund, dean of Yale's School of Public Health, told STAT. "To blunt the severity of the epidemic on the upsurge … that is a great time to do contact tracing."
Employing contact tracers helps state and local governments to prevent an upsurge without resorting to more drastic measures. As noted by STAT, focusing on known cases lowers associated economic costs but can miss hidden spreaders. Conversely, lock downs can limit transmission but impose high costs. Contact tracing offers the "effective middle ground."
Of course, not everyone is happy to be called out of the blue, told they may have contracted coronavirus, and asked to put their life on hold for two weeks. Emotions can range from scared to angry to confused.
This is where the "part social work, part therapist" enters. Contact tracers need to be empathetic, have excellent communication skills, and be comfortable talking and listening about medical and personal issues. It's not a job for everyone, but the right people in the role can make all the difference.
A novel demand
Contact tracing isn't new. It was used in both the 2003 SARS outbreak and the 2014 Ebola outbreak. It's employed to prevent the transmission of STIs and communicable diseases such as measles and tuberculosis, and even foodborne illnesses.
In fact, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) recommends 15 professionals per 100,000 citizens to be involved in contact tracing during non-emergency situations. But COVID-19 creates a problem of scale.
Many people with COVID-19 aren't aware they have it. They may be asymptomatic or misidentify their symptoms. There's also much we don't know, and human nature, which abhors a vacuum, fills that space with misinformation. The result is a virus that spreads rapidly while leaving an obscure trail to follow.
Because of this, states and counties will need contact tracers to prevent a second outbreak, while those hoping to reopen will need them to limit new cases. NACCHO estimates the U.S. will need twice as many professionals, or 30 professionals per 100,000. That amounts to a nationwide force of roughly 100,000 contact workers. Former CDC Director Tom Friedman estimates that number would need to be closer to 300,000.
Become a contact tracer
Requirements vary state by state. Some require no more than a high school diploma, while others may request more specific training or degrees. But don't think that means you need previous experience in public health or social work.
"The biggest misconception about contact tracing is that you need to have public health training or experience," Christiana Coyle, a professor at New York University's School of Global Public Health and a former contact tracer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNBC.
Coyle continued: "It's more important that you're comfortable with medical terminology, working through a script and cold-calling people. For me, cold-calling was the hardest part. You're giving people news that's potentially very disturbing and serious. You never know what you'll encounter on the other end of the phone."
Hiring approaches also differ. Some states have outsourced to nonprofits, while others have positioned otherwise furloughed health care professionals. If you are interested in contact-tracing work, we recommend starting your search with an official state job board. You can google for listings in your area, but be wary of fraudulent job postings.
It will be sometime before we know if the economy has found a new normal. Until then, contact tracing will not only help us stabilize our hard-earned reprieve from novel coronavirus but provide some stability for households across the country.
There are ways to engage with someone with whom you don't agree.
- When you have pre-conceived ideas about a group whose views oppose your own, you risk closing the door to meaningful discourse before it begins.
- "When you demonize those who voted against you then there's no chance of a democratic debate," argues Yanis Varoufakis, former finance minister of Greece and founder of DiEM25. "You've lost it completely. Then you go into a state of civil war."
- Varoufakis says that there are two ways of approaching a difference of opinion: external and internal critiques. Focusing on internal critiques as the more fruitful method, Varoufakis explains how using logic to work through one's assumptions to see if they lead to the same conclusions can open up a pathway to conversation.