A roundup of the latest thinking
As false news has become a global phenomenon, scholars have responded. They’ve ramped up their efforts to understand how and why bad information spreads online — and how to stop it. In the past 18 months, they’ve flooded academic journals with new research and have raised the level of urgency. In a March 2018 article, titled “The Science of Fake News,” in the prestigious journal Science, 16 high-profile academics came together to issue a call to action, urging internet and social media platforms to work with scholars to evaluate the problem and find solutions.
There appears to be some difference in the reach and appetite for these sources in the U.S. and across Europe.
Also very interesting:
Another key, potentially surprising, takeaway from that study: “In general, fake news consumption seems to be a complement to, rather than a substitute for, hard news — visits to fake news websites are highest among people who consume the most hard news and do not measurably decrease among the most politically knowledgeable individuals.”
People are less skeptical of information they encounter on platforms they have personalized — through friend requests and “liked” pages, for instance — to reflect their interests and identity.
Sundar characterizes his research findings in this way: “We discovered that participants who had customized their news portal were less likely to scrutinize the fake news and more likely to believe it.”
The piece had some guidance on how to stop this. But, I found most interesting the stuff we still don’t know.
For one, much of the new research centers on U.S. politics and, specifically, elections. But social networks drive conversations about many other topics such as business, education, health, and personal relationships. To battle bad online information, it would be helpful to know whether people respond to these sorts of topics differently than they respond to information about political candidates and elections. It also would be useful to know whether myths about certain subjects — for instance, a business product or education trend — are trickier to correct than others.
There is also a need for a collaborative approach to this problem.