< Home < Blog

Seven rules to resist online manipulation

by: Samarth Bansal | May 28, 2022

Carl Miller is research director for the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, at the think tank Demos. He tweeted a brilliant thread listing seven rules to resist online manipulation. I really liked it, and sharing his ideas here — as it is — to amplify its reach.

1. Guard against outrage: Activating outrage is the easiest way to manipulate you. It is present in literally every information warfare campaign I’ve ever analysed. When you become angry, you make others angry as well - both your friends and opponents. Guard against it.

It is very much a tactic of information warfare practitioners to tie up opponents online in futile, unending arguments, often by triggering outrage.

2. Don’t passive scroll: Sitting there scrolling through your feed makes you prey to all the gaming and manipulation that targets algorithmic curation. This is one of the ways that illicit/manipulative content makes itself extremely visible.

3. Actively find info: The information that wants to find you isn’t the information you want to find. Instead, reach out, actively find good sources. Proactively learn about the world using your own, conscious sense of what to trust.

4. Slow down online: Manipulation very commonly activates your emotion, not reasoning. The hope (I’ve heard from viral crafters) is to get you to share stuff literally before you’ve thought about it. Always pause before sharing. Consider it as well as feel it.

5. Don’t trust metrics: Even Jack Dorsey says not to trust Twitter followers. All those easily visible, countable metrics have been taken to be a proxy for authority, and they really, really shouldn’t be. They’re unbelievably easy to manipulate, across SM.

6. Use non-online sources: For really really key stuff, don’t trust the Internet I’m afraid. Speak to actual people too.

7. Spend your attention wisely: Your attention changes you. Where you spend it is a proactive choice that change who you are, what you think, whom you know. Spending attention should be made with the same discernment and care as, say, deciding what food to put into our bodies.