The use of social media as a political weapon is a new phenomenon that is little understood by the public. This is an example of how the critical skills of “communications” can have tremendous impact on the general public.
There are two ways that social media is used:
- Planting “fake news” or spreading unfounded rumors or conspiracy theories;
- Planting any story to divert attention away from unpleasant news.
The latter use of social media – diversion – is less understood and more difficult to spot. British and Australian authors Stephan Lewandowsky, Michael Jetter and Ullrich K.H. Ecker recently published an impressive analysis of this phenomenon using President Donald Trump’s use of his Twitter account as a weapon to divert crucial media attention from topics potentially harmful to him.
As an example, they documented how Trump would tweet about unrelated issues whenever an article about the Mueller investigation appeared in the national media. Their study and writeup is impressive, and you can access the full article by clicking on the link below.