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New book looks at how to make your way through the likes and the lies online

Last Updated Oct 24, 2018 at 9:59 am PST

(Source: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Social media used to be a fun place to share photos of your vacation or what you had for lunch. Not anymore, according to a new book. LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media makes the case the online world has become more like a battlefield. That’s especially true of Twitter and Facebook.

“They’re through what we run everything from our personal lives to business to news to politics and war,” explains defense expert and co-author P.W. Singer. “And that means they’ve also become a kind of warzone.”

Singer argues social media companies also bear some responsibility for how their products are used. “The way to think about it is that they are running for-profit businesses that are simultaneously the nervous system of the modern world.”

The unlikely star of the book is Donald Trump. LikeWar begins with the story of his first tweet back in 2009, promoting an upcoming appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Singer and co-author Emerson T. Brooking look at how Trump’s social media use became increasingly political, leading up to his successful White House bid. “He would not be president without the power of social media,” Singer says.

He says Trump is simply a reflection of our times. “It’s this strange world where your vacation videos are sitting alongside attempts to weaponize information to change an election, to aid a terrorist group, you name it.”

So how do you make your way in this new reality? Singer warns, as in poker, if you don’t know who the patsy is, it’s probably you. “If you don’t understand what’s going on in social media, the dynamics of it, how to navigate through the world of likes and lies, you’re going to be the target that’s taken advantage of…as a consumer, as a citizen, you name it.”