An expansion of a thread from April. I’m quite sure about this but I don’t know how to test it.
The dominant theory is that disinformation breaks down The People’s conception of objective reality while deluging fact checkers in a sea of lies they can’t keep up with. Amplification, on the other hand, worsens ideological divisions by using true information to drive people apart. This isn’t the right frame. Both are meant to accelerate negative partisanship. Disinformation and amplification do the same thing, but they’re used for different targets.
Amplification is disinformation for knowledge elites. The HVTs are the professional opinion-havers: there’s value both in misleading them about material facts and in misleading them about the beliefs of others. Lying to the pundit class about the beliefs of the rank-and-file is probably an effective way of manipulating a political bloc. As pundits are mislead by false virality, they adopt a narrative that members of the group share the viral position at a greater rate than they actually do— and they will also get the idea that their opponents hold extreme positions at a greater rate than they actually do.
Back in April Yascha Mounk scolded everyone for paying so much attention to Twitter, and he was right about the mechanism but wrong to assume the process is an organic development. Twitter would create a mild version of this effect even without the info operator’s nudge: people who tweet about politics are Weird. Put together, the weirdness of people who tweet about politics and the relative ease of manipulating identity maintenance processes with counterfeit virality are almost certainly driving the elites further from the median.
I suspect that this is a boomerang. The next step, presumably, is that when the rank-and-file hear “members of our group think this”, opinion shifts because political affiliation is about identity maintenance, not policy. Even if identity maintenance processes do not eventually move the median, it’s probably still dangerous to have such a large gap between actual rank-and-file opinion and elite perception of rank-and-file opinion.
I’m wise to you, Valeriy.