How to Protect Against Undue Influence Online

Steven A Hassan PhD

The potential for undue influence has become increasingly significant in this era of digital interconnectivity. Undue influence can distort our perceptions, manipulate our decisions, and sometimes jeopardize our autonomy and mental health. As an expert in cults and mind control, I’ve studied and fought against the deceptive tactics cults of all kinds use for years. Here are some essential strategies to protect yourself online from undue influence.

1. Understand What Undue Influence Is

The first step to protecting yourself is understanding what undue influence is. It refers to a situation in which an individual or group exerts unreasonable control over another person’s behavior information, thoughts, and emotions (BITE model). In the digital realm, undue influence can take many forms: disinformation campaigns, persuasive advertising, propaganda, and even manipulative content designed to induce fear, uncertainty, or dependency. In the case of QAnon, it actually creates in targets a pseudo-identity; to family, coworkers, and friends, the person seems to have developed a radical personality change.

2. Develop Media Literacy Skills

In an age of fake news, it is crucial to develop media literacy skills. Such skills involve analyzing, evaluating, and creating media in various forms. Become a discerning consumer of information; verify the source, check for credibility, and look for inherent biases. Here is an excellent media bias chart, produced by Adfontesmedia.

3. Maintain a Healthy Skepticism

Maintain a healthy skepticism towards online information, especially if it seems too good to be true or incites extreme emotional reactions. Beware of confirmation bias, which seems to validate your preexisting beliefs. Avoid sharing content until you’ve confirmed its validity. I usually want to know that reputable news sources like Associated Press have covered the story.

4. Prioritize Privacy

Privacy is paramount. Delete as much data as you can about yourself. Be mindful of what information you share online, and always ensure that your online activities are secured through reliable antivirus software, VPNs, and safe browsing practices. Review all policies on platforms, especially “free” ones: If you aren’t paying, then you are the product, as, in many cases, they are selling your data.

5. Utilize the BITE Model of Authoritarian Control

I developed the BITE (Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional) model to help people understand and identify instances of undue influence. Online, this could manifest as websites or groups that control your behavior, limit your access to balanced information, manipulate your thoughts, and exploit your emotions. Awareness of such tactics can empower you to identify and avoid potential undue influence online.

6. Learn about The Influence Continuum

The BITE model is best understood within the context of the Influence Continuum, a tool I developed to help people recognize the line between ethical and unethical influence. At one extreme is respect for individuality, encouraging critical thinking, and informed consent. Conversely, there is manipulation, demands for obedience, and deception. Understanding where influence falls on this continuum can equip you with the tools to resist undue influence. BITE model behaviors indicate unethical authoritarian control. The worst authoritarian control gives rise to dissociative disorder in acolytes as the result of the creation of a pseudo-identity in the image of the cult leader or ideology.

7. Be Mindful of Time Spent Online

A healthy mind requires, on average, eight hours of restorative sleep. Turn off your smartphone an hour or two before bedtime. Ideally, keep your phone out of your bedroom. Limit the time you spend on platforms known for hosting manipulative groups. Prolonged exposure can gradually desensitize your skepticism and make you susceptible to undue influence. Remember, AI is often used to press your emotional buttons to keep you on the platform.

8. Utilize Available Resources

Numerous resources are available for those seeking to better understand undue influence and mind control. Use resources from reputable mental health and cybersecurity organizations to help safeguard your online experiences.

By incorporating these steps into your digital life, you can protect yourself from undue influence in the online world, ensuring that you can think and act independently, free from manipulation. Remember, everyone deserves the right to live free from undue influence. It is your mind. Only you should control it!


Marci, C. D., MD (2022). Rewired: Protecting Your Brain in the Digital Age. Harvard University Press.

Combi, C. (2015). Generation Z: Their Voices, Their Lives. Hutchinson.

Orlowski-Yang, J. (Director). (2020). The Social Dilemma [Film]. Exposure Labs.

Viken, K. (Director). (2020). People You May Know [Film]. AMC Plus Documentaries.

Amer, K., & Noujaim, J. (Directors). (2019). The Great Hack [Film]. The Othrs.

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