The Great Hack, QAnon & The Disinformation Machine

Here are the instructions:
Throughout the semester, we have encountered and analyzed everything from Big Data, social media addiction/manipulation, algorithms pushing antagonistic and divisive content, complicated disinformation campaigns, and how the concept of free speech has been challenged with the rise of online culture. We’ve talked about how the internet has only amplified the rate at which social norms change, about different online communities and social media platforms, and the various fringe and extremist groups wielding the power of internet anonymity to grow their base and spread racist ideologies and incite violence.


In the final unit of our semester, we took a closer look at how our online activity has been scraped, sold and manipulated for use in large-scale misinformation/disinformation campaigns that threaten the very fabric of our society through our discussion on the documentary The Great Hack, Talia Lavin’s article “QAnon, Blood Libel and the Satanic Panic” and the comprehensive 2 part lesson on QAnon and corresponding short films.


For your third and final paper, you must create and support an argument around what you believe is the biggest threat to our society when it comes to issues of misinformation/ disinformation. These issues include: targeted marketing (why is targeted advertising okay to do for selling products but not political candidates or policies?), distrust in mainstream news media (how do we resolve the issue of “truth”?), glorifying social media influencers (free speech should not equal free reach), not teaching internet literacy in schools (critical thinking, fact-checking, and other research techniques and the rise of “online schools” with no accreditation pushing disinformation like Prager University), and more!



General Guidelines:

If you feel like this prompt is pretty broad/open-ended, you’re right. I wanted to give everyone the chance to approach this paper through a lens that most interests you. However, you MUST be sure to acknowledge both sides of the argument and really think about the weight of each side in terms of what you argue should or should not be done/changed.


In addition to the formatting criteria listed at the beginning of this prompt, you MUST:

Cite both The Great Hack and Talia Lavin’s Essay at least ONCE in your paper.
Cite or reference AT LEAST TWO of the readings/films from earlier this semester (Harari, Daniels, Konnikova, The Social Dilemma, Feels Good Man)
Research and Cite AT LEAST ONE outside source pertaining to a topical event/issue that aligns with your central argument. You can use any of the various links and sources from any of the Lessons/lectures; one of the articles you submitted for your current event assignment; or a new source–as long as it is credible and relevant
As usual, you can use and build on any of the ideas from our online discussions or those laid out in the lessons Other outside CREDIBLE sources (such as any of those found in lessons/lectures) are permitted but not required. You should also revisit the rhetorical strategies and various handouts, rubrics and worksheets from previous weeks to help you write and revise your essay.



You are welcome to consider any of the questions below to help you begin brainstorming ideas for your paper. You care also welcome to use email me or stop by office hours to talk out some of your ideas:

Who are the producers of misinformation and disinformation? And where is it coming from? What role does money play in the creation and dissemination of misinformation and disinformation?
What circumstances would make a fake news story more believable? How does cultural background effect whether an audience believes fake news? What personal experiences could affect whether an audience believes fake news?
What can companies like Facebook and Snapchat do to stop users from spreading fake news? What can ordinary people do? What do you think would work, especially with younger users?
We’ve learned through the QAnon lesson that banning users and specific keywords/content may help the spread of mis/disinformation, but ultimately it won’t FIX the problem. Should lawmakers and policy makers within the government demand accountability from these social media companies by creating regulations on what users are allowed to share on their platforms?
Should all schools provide media literacy education in some form? Should media literacy be a required course in school? Why, or why not?

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