#NoFilter: Scrutinising Social Media Skepticism

Posted by QED at 10:23am on September 14th 2018
Social media apps on a smartphone screen

Social media has become one of the most influential communication tools of our age, capable of shaping opinion, swinging elections and sparking rebellions. While the ease of access to social media platforms provides an unprecedented opportunity for science communicators and skeptics to spread evidence-based information, it also poses a serious threat.

Publishers like Natural News and David Avocado Wolfe spew pseudoscience to their millions of followers, while the posts that point out the flaws in their arguments get a fraction of the attention. Bogus claims can go viral long before critical thinking can vaccinate against the misinformation. Meanwhile, a highly-active community of YouTubers and Redditors is defining skepticism for themselves, with seemingly little overlap with offline scepticism – either in membership or ideology.

How can we push back effectively against promoters of bad ideas and flawed arguments – from both outside and inside the skeptical movement? Our panel to discuss the upsides and downsides of skepticism on social media will be:

  • Jonathan Jarry – Jonathan is a science communicator with the McGill Office for Science and Society. He has given talks on the use of social media in getting institutions to distance themselves from pseudoscience, and his recent video on miraculous cancer claims received more than 12 million views worldwide.

  • Pixie Turner – Pixie is an evidence-based nutritionist who uses her social media platform to dispel dietary myths to over 124,000 followers on Instagram, reaching an audience who may not often encounter sceptical information.

  • Eli Bosnick – Eli is a magician and co-host of the Scathing Atheist podcasts. Away from the microphone, he has focused on social media outreach, with experienced of the good and the bad side of social media – from having a pro-immigration Facebook status go viral, to conversing and debating with infamous internet trolls.

  • Michael Marshall – Michael is the Project Director of the Good Thinking Society and was one of the organisers of the 10:23 Campaign, which used social media to connect activists around homeopathy and to flag up homeopathy-related topics.