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Fri Oct 30, 2015, 04:06 PM

What was fake on the Internet this week: Why do we even bother, honestly?

Typically, we use this space to debunk the various hoaxes, charades and conspiracy theories that afflict social media each week. But this week, I can’t do it. I must abstain. Because someone’s done a study on debunk efforts like this one, and bottom line? They’re all in vain.

To reach this heart-rending conclusion, Walter Quattrociocchi — the head of the Laboratory of Computational Social Science at IMT Lucca — and a team of seven (!) other researchers studied how two groups of U.S. Facebook users interacted with news on the site. One group was comprised of people who interact with reputable science pages. (Those are the ones who presumably have a level of news literacy.) The other group was made of people who like far-out conspiracy pages — anti-vaxxers, Illuminati-watchers, that kind of thing.

They quickly came to two conclusions about the conspiracy and non-conspiracy groups. First off: They didn’t overlap at all, which means the misinformed, as we’ll politely call them, were unlikely to ever see the truth. And second, when the conspiracy group did encounter “debunking” information, it didn’t change their mind. In fact, it just made them more resolute: After encountering a post that challenged a conspiracy theory, theorists tend to like and comment on pages about that theory even more.

Do debunk efforts change people’s minds? Well — not really. The orange line shows the rate at which people stop engaging with conspiracy posts if they HAVE seen debunks. The green line is the same rate, but if they haven’t: It’s faster. (Quattrociocchi et al)

That counter-intuitive effect, Quattrociocchi writes, has something to do with the conspiracy echo chamber: Because social environments like Facebook allow users to mold it to their own tastes, they’re only ever exposed to people and information “that conforms with their beliefs.” (More research will be needed, Quattrociocchi has said, to determine if Facebook’s algorithms exaggerate that tendency; a controversial study, published last May, suggests that it does — albeit modestly.)


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Reply What was fake on the Internet this week: Why do we even bother, honestly? (Original post)
Blue_Tires Oct 2015 OP
underpants Oct 2015 #1

Response to Blue_Tires (Original post)

Fri Oct 30, 2015, 04:18 PM

1. I don't believe it

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