Some thoughts on social media, disinformation, and the 2024 elections

The 2024 U.S. general election is coming up in just under a year, and we can expect that as the election season intensifies, disinformation campaigns and social media manipulation related to the election will intensify as well. In recent election cycles, social media propaganda campaigns have been studied by a variety of researchers, some with academic or other group affiliation and others random denizens of the internet such as myself. While this sort of research will continue as the 2024 election approaches, a perfect storm of confounding factors makes this more difficult than in previous election years. These factors include the following:A reduction in transparency and data availability by multiple major platformsAttacks on researchers by powerful government and corporate actorsIncreased ease of manufacturing misleading content due to advances in generative AI modelsMedia publishing inaccurate or outright fake “disinfo research” due to the short supply of legitimate data-driven researchrecent developments are not encouragingAs recently as the 2022 election, multiple major social media platforms offered free or low-cost APIs (application programming interfaces) that allowed independent researchers to query and download public data about posts, accounts, and interactions in standard formats (JSON, CSV, etc). In early 2023, both X (formerly Twitter) and Reddit attached massive price tags to previously free or inexpensive API offerings, effectively putting these APIs out of financial reach for most individuals and institutions conducting social media research. Complicating matters, X has limited manual methods of harvesting this information as well — inspecting an account’s followers or followees now only…Some thoughts on social media, disinformation, and the 2024 elections

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