Social media companies downplay disinformation, BuzzFeed launches AI quizzes and more

According to a New York Times report, even as a new American presidential election season kicks off and COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine continue, social media companies are scaling back efforts to combat misinformation on their platforms.

YouTube now has a single person in charge of misinformation policy following Alphabet’s recent layoffs, and has seen deep cuts in other teams dealing with various facets of misinformation. Under Elon Musk’s control, Twitter has drastically reduced its misinformation and security teams, welcoming back users previously banned for spreading misinformation.

As the New York Times reports:

“I wouldn’t say the war is over, but I think we’ve lost important battles,” said Angelo Carusone, president of the liberal media regulator Media Matters for America. After years of effort, he described an increasing sense of fatigue in battle. “I think we as a society have lost the appetite to keep fighting. And that means we will lose the war.”

Companies claim they remain diligent, but efforts to combat false and misleading information online – which arguably peaked during the Covid pandemic and the 2020 presidential election – have waned at a time when the problem of misinformation has been compounded with a Proliferation remains as harmful as ever from alternative websites competing for users.

Why It Matters: Fewer checks for misinformation can actively harm our organizations. As PR professionals, it can become our responsibility to manage a crisis that results from the rapid spread of rumors and lies. In November 2022, Eli reportedly asked Lilly to remove an account marked with a blue tick that was posing as the pharmaceutical company promising free insulin; Twitter staff went unresponsive for hours, letting the misinformation rage.

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Teams that fight misinformation are good for the health of society and businesses. Demand that the organizations you work with take these matters seriously.

BuzzFeed begins introducing AI-powered quizzes

We’re getting our first taste of how AI is powering BuzzFeed’s brand quizzes — and they’re scoring better than many other media organizations in terms of transparency.

As The Verge reports, the quizzes are similar to Mad Libs. You enter some information, wait 15 seconds – an eternity at today’s modern internet speeds – and a little story is delivered. Current topics in BuzzFeed’s Valentine’s Day-inspired Infinity Quiz series include writing a romantic comedy about you or finding your plant soulmate – sponsored by Miracle-Gro.

Why it’s important: I took two of these quizzes, and they were both pretty shy, kind of like the mad libs you might have made with pen and paper as a kid. They don’t really stick together and there’s a chance this was used to collect data about my interests so it could be used to develop future quizzes.

But it’s new technology and early days. And it’s thanks to BuzzFeed that they clearly flagged the quizzes in the headlines as AI-engineered and included “Buzzy the Robot” in their bylines – putting them ahead of outlets like CNET and Men’s Journal in terms of transparency.

Keep an eye out for other venues adopting new uses for AI and ways to improve them.

According to a study, consumers are more likely to interact positively with brands

You can think of the internet and online reviews as places where the negative thrives and the positive is ignored. But a new study by Ruder Finn finds the opposite: Consumers crave positive interactions with brands.

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Of consumers who engage with brands, 48.7% give positive feedback on their interactions, while only 12.4% say the engagement was negative.

And the best news for social media communicators: a whopping 93% of consumers said they want to feel like brands are listening to them.

Why It Matters: Whether it’s online review sites, social media, or anywhere else on the web, brands need to be present and actively engage with their users. Don’t just respond to negative feedback by trying to put out the fire – take the time to thank those who leave positive reviews, crack a joke, and find a way to make sure they feel valued. It’s too easy to just focus on the negative; Make sure your outreach finds time to celebrate those who interact with positive feedback.

Another day, another airline meltdown

Flight problems have struck again, this time in the EU. More than 200 Lufthansa flights were canceled from Frankfurt Airport alone on Wednesday, thanks to damaged broadband cables that disabled the airline’s IT department.

Frankfurt is a busy hub for Europe and a disruption there can easily cause a domino effect. Reuters reported that passengers saw airline employees using paper and pencil to write passenger lists – not a reassuring sight when preparing to take off in a flying tin can.

Why it matters: While this issue doesn’t appear to be Lufthansa’s fault, it is their responsibility. And it comes at a bad time: Planned strikes in the coming week could lead to major disruptions at other German airports.

Overall, it continues to shake confidence in air travel, a problem that exploded at Southwest during holiday travel in 2022, continued with the FAA grounding of all US planes, and has now spread across the Atlantic.

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Airline communicators must be transparent, honest and positive about disruptions, explaining why they are occurring and doing everything possible to demonstrate trust, safety and reliability.

Allison Carter is the Editor-in-Chief of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.