A New Disinformation Threat: Kitty Videos

A New Disinformation Threat: Kitty Videos

In a recent appearance on “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” Tandon Ph.D. candidate Laura Edelson named a surprising new platform for disinformation campaigns: kitten videos. Edelson, who is co-director of the Cybersecurity for Democracy initiative of NYU’s Center for Cybersecurity, was invited to the TBS show to explain how cat videos are used to lure in new viewers for fake news.

Though “Full Frontal” is a comedy show, the issue addressed is no joke. The New York Times reported on this development in December 2021. As Edelson explained to host Samantha Bee, “The best way to think about the kittens is as engagement bait. Cats are cute. So, you would see a cat video in your feed, you like it, maybe you like the page, and then content from The Epoch Times will start filtering into your news feed. You lure people in with pet videos, and that’s where you start sprinkling in things that are misinformation.”

When asked how individuals can avoid being targeted in this way, Edelson recommended: “If something on the internet is making you emotional, that is the time to step back and say, ‘who is trying to make me emotional, how are they doing this, do I think this person is who they say they are, and is this thing I am looking at really true’.”

The full segment from the program, which aired on January 27, can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZ9EqTztscw.

In addition to the “Full Frontal,” appearance, Edelson has been in great demand as a media commentator on a number of issues over the past few months. These include the negative impact of social media on young people (The Guardian and The Washington Post), disinformation (CNN and ABC News), and government legislation to mandate ad transparency (The Verge).