Stop clicking on wacky conspiracy theory posts

Don’t read this post – it’s about conspiracy theories. Advice from New Statesman:

new study has been released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) analysing how prevalent the sharing of misinformaton (otherwise known as bullshit) is spread online using social media. The authors of the study, led by Michela Del Vicario of the IMT Institute in Lucca, Italy, looked at the speed and spread of Facebook posts and whether clusters of users formed around particular sets of posts.

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The posts were organised into three categories: science news, conspiracy theories, and trolls. Science stories were general news stories informing readers of new research developments. Conspiracy theories posts used “controversial, alternative information” without proper or reliable supporting information. Troll-related posts were those written to intentionally humiliate someone using false information and sarcasm.

Sadly, science news posts had smaller cascade sizes (bursts of life) when shared compared with conspiracy theories and troll-related posts. The researchers found a positive correlation between the speed and amount conspiracy theories were shared, and the overall lifetime they had as posts of significant interest.

The scarier findings in the study were the lack of overall connection between users, the paper stating, “contents tend to circulate only inside the echo chamber”. It’s quite clear that our hyper-personalised and self-indulgent use of news apps and “feeds” is a poor way of opening our minds – unless it’s a conspiracy theory, of course. However, the scientists found science news was shared with a wider audience quicker than conspiracy theories were…

[continues at New Statesman]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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