Tag Archives | Misinformation

How Misinformation Goes Viral

The subheading of this story on “misinformation” from Columbia Journalism Review is “a Truthy story,” in which David Alberti explains how “conservative media’s reaction to an Indiana University project shows how shoddy information can quickly become an online narrative”:

On August 26, Fox’s Megyn Kelly aired a four-minute segment on an Indiana University project called Truthy, declaring sarcastically, “Some bureaucrat deciding whether you are being hateful or misinforming people — what could possibly go wrong?” Fox & Friends jumped onto the bandwagon two days later. During its four-minute segment, legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. managed to squeeze in not only a comparison to Joseph McCarthy, but also a reference to George Orwell’s 1984. “Is the First Amendment going into the dumper?” he asks.

The segments can be traced to a story published on a right-wing news site the previous Monday, which spawned a conspiratorial narrative that soon metastasized throughout social media and the conservative blogosphere.

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The Feds Continue to Spread Misinformation About Marijuana

Some cannabis bud, which is well-cured (i.e. dried slowly following a specific procedure). The strain is Sweet Tooth #3

Some cannabis bud, which is well-cured (i.e. dried slowly following a specific procedure). The strain is Sweet Tooth #3

Or maybe it’s more disinformation than misinformation. Either way, I’m guessing that none of you are surprised.

via AlterNet (Please follow the link to read the entire piece):

In her latest blog post, US National Institute on Drug Abuse director Nora Volkow claims that “science should guide marijuana policy.” But if the nation’s top anti-drug doc truly believes that facts, not ideological rhetoric, ought to shape America’s drug policies, why does she feel the need to keep distorting the truth about pot?

Writes Volkow: “Besides being addictive, marijuana is cognitively impairing even beyond the phase of acute intoxication and regular use during adolescence may cause a significant, possibly permanent IQ loss.”

Or, more than likely, it may not. In fact, the very study Volkow relies on to make this questionable claim was publically repudiated in a 2012 review published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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How Misinformation Spreads on Facebook

RIAN archive 988824 Facebook social network's pageSarah Gray reports for Salon (via AlterNet) on research about how people on Facebook interacted with “trolls” posting false information; she says the results are depressing:

From the steady roll of theories on what happened to Malaysian Arlines Flight 370, to Sarah Palin’s “death panels” panic, to Donald Trump’s birther theories, misinformation spreads like wildfire in the age of Facebook.

In 2013, professor Walter Quattrociocchi of Northeastern University along with his team studied how more than 1 million Facebook users engaged with political information during the Italian election. During that election a post appeared titled: “Italian Senate voted and accepted (257 in favor and 165 abstentions) a law proposed by Senator Cirenga to provide policy makers with €134 billion Euros to find jobs in the event of electoral defeat.”

The post was from an Italian site that parodies the news. According to  MIT Technology Review it was filled with at least four major inaccuracies: “[T]he senator involved is fictitious, the total number of votes is higher than is possible in Italian politics, the amount of money involved is more than 10% of Italian GDP and the law itself is an invention.”

Despite the blatant falsehoods of this  parody news post, the story went viral — shared over 35,000 times in less than a month.

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A PRISM of Uncertainty: My Story And I’m Sticking To It.

From Modern Mythology

As anyone that hasn’t been under a rock for the past week knows, this “PRISM thing” has blown up all over the internet. Which is a good thing — privacy is something that people should be concerned about, and discuss.

Take a look at some of the other information that came to light in the past few days:

The fictional journalistic “this may or may not be true”:

The following article should be treated as strictly hypothetical. It has been editorialized to simplify the content in certain areas, while maintaining as much technical detail as we can offer. Companies named in this article have been publicly disclosed, or used in example only. This piece should not be taken necessarily as fact but as a working theory that portrays only one possible implementation of the U.S. National Security Agency’s PRISM program as it may exist today.

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Santa Clausifying Martin Luther King, Jr.

Picture: Library of Congress (PD)

David Sirota writes at Truthdig:

Every year, right around the time between Martin Luther King Day and the beginning of Black History Month, the effort to distort Dr. King’s life and legacy seems to intensify. Some years, we see conservatives preposterously assert that if Dr. King were alive today, he would join today’s neo-confederate Republican Party. Other years, it is deception via omission—we see replays of Dr. King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, but do not see any of his speeches about war and poverty.

Princeton professor Cornel West accurately labels all this the “Santa Clausification” of Dr. King, and if you have ever heard or read a snippet of King’s 1967 Riverside Church speech, you will understand how apt the label is. You will also understand why this year’s most grotesque attempt to Santa Clausify Dr. King’s life is at once abhorrent and yet somewhat encouraging.

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Are Educated Republicans Stupider Than Uneducated Ones?

Chris Mooney writes at AlterNet:

Let’s face it: We liberals and progressives are absolutely outraged by partisan misinformation. Lies about “death panels.” People seriously thinking that President Obama is a Muslim, not born in the United States. Climate-change denial. Debt ceiling denial. These things drive us crazy, in large part because we can’t comprehend how such intellectual abominations could possibly exist.

And not only are we enraged by lies and misinformation; we want to refute them—to argue, argue, argue about why we’re right and Republicans are wrong. Indeed, we often act as though right-wing misinformation’s defeat is nigh, if we could only make people wiser and more educated (just like us) and get them the medicine that is correct information.

No less than President Obama’s science adviser John Holdren (a man whom I greatly admire, but disagree with in this instance) has stated, when asked how to get Republicans in Congress to accept our mainstream scientific understanding of climate change, that it’s an “education problem.”

But the facts, the scientific data, say otherwise.

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Congressmen Seeks To “Lift” U.S. Propaganda Ban on Americans

Ride With HitlerThere was a ban on propaganda? "Propaganda that was supposed to target foreigners could now be aimed at Americans, reversing a longstanding policy," writes Michael Hastings at BuzzFeed Politics:
An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill, BuzzFeed has learned. The amendment would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee's official website. The tweak to the bill would essentially neutralize two previous acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns...
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The Success Myth And The Female Gaze

Noah Brand

Noah Brand

Noah Brand, a mysterious figure with a very nice hat, tells of his greatest professional failure, explains his theory of “The Success Myth,” and introduces the idea of the female gaze, for the Good Men Project:

The masculine equivalent to what Naomi Wolf called The Beauty Myth is The Success Myth. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe said, “A man being rich is like a girl being pretty” and everyone nodded their head, recognizing and endorsing the sentiment. When a rich guy marries a slim young “trophy wife” we all nod our heads again, recognizing that, like it or not, this is a match of two high-value people, a conventionally-successful man and a conventionally-beautiful woman. It would take way too long to get into all the horrible things that arise out of these paired myths, from “gold-digger” stereotypes to men who kill themselves for being “failures”; for now let’s just talk about the idea that men can’t be considered attractive.

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If 10% of the Population Believes a Stupid Thing, The Majority Will Too

IdiocracyVia ScienceDaily:

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.

The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion.

The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.”When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,” said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.”

As an example, the ongoing events in Tunisia and Egypt appear to exhibit a similar process, according to Szymanski.

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NASA Names ’2012′ As The Most Absurd Science Fiction Film of All Time

2012 MovieI have faith that Hollywood can produce an even more ridiculous film in our new decade. (And remember kids, movies are a great way to learn about science : ) Reports Metro UK:

Roland Emmerich’s disaster movie proved to be a smash hit, taking more than £490 million [~$760 million] at the box office — but it was less popular at the US space agency. A panel of NASA experts concluded 2012 was the most scientifically flawed blockbuster ever made.

The film, which stars John Cusack, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor, includes scenes in which a physicist claims to have discovered that neutrino particles carried to earth on solar flares had caused a series of catastrophic natural disasters.

Many film fans were so worried about what they saw that NASA was inundated with questions about whether the world could end in the way suggested in the movie, prompting the organisation to put up a special website explaining that the scientific theories in 2012 were myths.

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