Peter McGuire reports for the Irish Times on a recent experiment in which scientists deliberately made false claims on social media sites to find out how easy it is to dupe people into believing in spurious conspiracies (some of their conjured theories are pretty funny – Viagra chemtrails anyone?):
… Read the rest
Earlier this year, Italian scientists and data researchers set out to chart how conspiracy theories – the idea that a secret society, politician or, increasingly, large corporation, is responsible for an unexplained event and cover-up – spread in the information age. And, if someone thinks, despite the lack of any evidence, that Princess Diana was murdered by the British royal family, the moon landings were faked and that secret, shadowy groups such as the Illuminati or lizard people rule the world, what else might they believe?
The scientists got together and, in more than 5,000 comments on Facebook, made deliberately false claims: the trails left by aircraft had been chemically analysed and were found to contain Viagra; an infinite energy machine has been created but is being suppressed; and mosquito sprays are toxic to humans.