With the development of new communication technologies, great transformations began in our lives. The increase in the use of the internet, the development of different digital tools and the expansion of social media have changed the course of the world. The widespread use of the internet and social media and its becoming a part of daily life have many positive effects (fast communication, the disappearance of time and space constraints, easy access to information, etc.), as well as negative consequences such as the rapid spread of fake news, especially in social media. In this study, information security in the digital world, possible threats in the media, disinformation, as well as the effects of the media on health, especially on the the youth, are discussed.
POSSIBLE THREATS IN THE MEDIA
The media has become one of the most effective power centers in the society with the reflection of the technological developments in the mass communication sector. The media has the power to influence and change the attitudes and behaviors of individuals. Parallel to these, media elites, including media managers, editors and active columnists, have become groups that hold this power in the social structure. With this power that the media has reached, it affects the attitudes and behaviors of individuals.
This shaping and changing effect of the media is also determinative on individuals, societies and the political structures of those societies. In this regard, the American social scientist Rivers makes determinations and descriptions of the media as “the second” or “the other government”.
Persons or groups that own or control mass media can deform and change news and messages in line with their interests and wishes. Thus, they may want to monopolize the ability to shape people’s opinions, thoughts, and meanings to things. Again, the media can be used for cultural exploitation and cultural assimilation. Due to all of these media to becomes a threat.
A lot of research has been done on the potential power of the media and the extent of its effects. The following basic findings have been revealed in different researches.
• The use of advanced technologies in the field of mass communication has given the media the opportunity to reach a wide audience. The position of those who own and control the mass media is very important. Monopolization, which shows a rapid increase in the field of culture industry, also leads to monopolization in the media, and it becomes an important threat by bringing very serious dangers for these societies.
• Those who own the mass media have also had the opportunity to keep the means of thought and mental production under their control as a result of this ownership. At least potentially, the mass media has a tremendous influence on the feelings, thoughts, and beliefs of individuals. As a result, it has the power to change the attitudes and behaviors of individuals. The direction of this change can be positive as well as negative. This situation may differ from society to society or over time within the same society, depending on many factors. This is a significant threat to societies.
• Rapid urbanization and industrialization have made urban people relatively vulnerable, helpless and easily influenced by mass media. Parallel to rapid urbanization and industrialization, an unstable, anomic and alienated type of society has emerged. These societies, which are composed of individuals who are alienated from themselves and their society, who are unreliable, unruly, and have feelings of emptiness, meaninglessness, and worthlessness, have come to a position that is easily manipulated (open to manipulation) by nature.
MEDIA AND DISINFORMATION
It is a very common situation in the media that various interest groups use information and data by distorting them to serve their own interests in order to shape the expectations of the society. The party using disinformation resorts to disinformation because it wants to make distortions on the dominant information/data/news set on the perception of the target audience. Diversifying sources makes disinformation more effective. The more refined version of disinformation is to make threatening, suppressive news and comments that will stifle that development potential in order to prevent some developments. Briefly, disinformation can be defined as;
• False information introduced to mislead the opponent.
• It is an important factor that plays a role in making him paranoid by causing him to think.
• Giving false, excessive or incomplete information to mislead people.
It is known that some power centers and secret services have resorted to disinformation in every period of history. News, information, signals are spreading all over the world at a speed never seen before in history. However, in the Information Age, the scope and effects of such activities are expanding.
“Disinformation”, which is mostly used as a media term, is actually a word that means “ignoring”, not “falsifying”. It is an effective method used to create social paranoia.
What is ascribed to disinformation as a meaning is the real meaning of the word “misinformation”. Disinformation means misleading (irrelevant, irrelevantly fragmentary, or superficial) information, that is, information that creates the illusion of knowing about something, but actually distracts people from informing. Therefore, it is possible to encounter misleading, inaccurate, exaggerated, distorted, etc. information in the media. “Misinformation, confusing data and fake news undoubtedly pose a clear and present danger to public safety and health. The priority of the journalists should be the society and the health of the society” (Prof. Dr. Yasemin Giritli İnceoğlu).
MEDIA AND HEALTH
With the development of new technologies, social media has become a virtual friend, a consultant, occupying the most important place in our lives for us. We do not hesitate to share many issues in the social media that we cannot talk to anyone, and to consult social media first on the most confidential matters. It is obvious that this digital world, which has entered our lives so much and provides us with great convenience, will bring benefits when used consciously about health, and harm when used unconsciously.
Health information is also an important tool for protecting and strengthening of public health in terms of the contribution it provides to individuals for their health. In this regard, social media is one of the active tools used in health-related communication, as it provides the opportunity to reach much larger audiences and faster than other media tools. In such a way that social media, which provides an effortless and fast access to health-related information for citizens, acts as a supporting element in the development and strengthening of health for the audiences.
In the Handbook for Health Communication Practitioners published by the CDC, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that the use of media and other communication technologies in health communication has increased rapidly, and they have become an effective tool that provides the opportunity to reach millions of people for the presentation of health information. Therefore, by stating that social media has many positive effects on health communication, the Handbook expressed these benefits as follows.
• It enables the transfer of information about health and prevention more effectively and quickly, strengthens communication with the target audience and facilitates information sharing.
• It enables the information to reach much wider audiences.
• It provides the opportunity to increase the effect by personalizing appropriate and motivating health messages to the determined target audiences.
• Facilitates mutual communication, contact and community participation.
• It helps people to make safer and healthier decisions.
• Includes social media in health communication activities.
• Social media allows people to receive health information whenever and wherever they want.
While social media offers patients the opportunity to receive health-related information directly and indirectly from doctors they trust, on the other hand, physicians are allowed to deliver health information to their patients through specially developed applications. With this feature, social media has an effect that strengthens patient and physician relations. However, unlike other media tools, social media also brings disadvantages such as advantages due to the fact that it allows people to create own content and is difficult to control. Because a person who uses a drug or treatment method recommends it on social media, the same drug and treatment will not give the same result for everyone, so this information may contain misleading information that does more harm than good. Therefore, the uncontrolled power of social media brings with it many false and misleading information about health information.
The fact that everyone can share, especially on health-related issues, directly affects other individuals’ decisions about treatment. So much so that a study conducted in the United States reveals that 61% of internet users obtain health information from the internet. There are 1200 pages about chronic diseases on Facebook, and a very serious 75% of chronic patients apply the treatment methods they reach from the internet. Again, according to a study conducted by the Manhattan Research Center, 39% of physicians in the USA communicate with their patients over the internet when one-on-one treatment or examination is not necessary. From this point of view, social media is a vital tool that directly affects people’s decision-making processes about their health. This tool brings many dangers when used in an uncontrolled and unconscious way. “Digital and social media play an important role in our lives. Social media users spend an average of 6 hours a day online. Social media addiction is one of the most important problems for our youth” (Fatih Katipoğlu).
For this reason, social media’s function to be an effective tool for improving and strengthening of health will only be possible if users are aware of misleading information by checking the source and accuracy of the information instead of accepting every information presented as true without control by using social consciously.
In addition to this, it is a fact that social media is a place where hate speech spread extremely fast, and the fact that discourses that cannot be expressed easily in real life can be used more easily, negatively affect people’s mental health. It is also a fact that people spend hours in the therapy chair in order to regain the lost sense of security because of these statements” (Psychologist Şebnem Dal Üzülmez).
The widespread use of the Internet, the increase in the number of digital tools and the introduction of social media into our lives affect both individuals and daily life. Accessing information is now easier, but it is necessary to question the reliability of the information obtained. While negative information is produced, for example, by journalists, today each of us can share our ideas and opinions on social media like a journalist or advise medicine like a physician.
Social media is a main source not only for young people but also for the majority, as it is about health. The digital world, which grows and develops day by day, plays a role in our change as a society, while encompassing individuals and institutions one by one. With this feature, social media goes beyond being a simple tool we use in our daily life and turns into a power that shapes our lives. So much so that it continues to maintain its functionality as an important tool that people often refer to, even for health, which is of vital importance for people. That’s why we need to be vigilant against disinformation in the digitalizing world day by day. It should not be forgotten that the right to choose, as in all matters, belongs to individuals. It should be ensured that individuals get acquainted with the training programs at an early age so that they can acquire the skills to distinguish, understand, analyze, produce and share the right information. Thus, the society can adapt to this new digital world and it becomes possible to build a safer world for all of us as it becomes stronger in choosing the right information.
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Editör: Silverman C., Çeviri: Yılmaz M., 2020, Dezenformasyon ve Manipülasyon Üzerine Doğrulama El Kitabı, Dezenformasyon ve medya manipülasyonunu araştırmak