Crowdsourcing is the best weapon in fight against fake news – David Rand and Gordon Pennycook

Associate Professor of Management Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT Sloan School of Management

From The Hill

The problem of misinformation isn’t new, but it gained widespread attention during the 2016 presidential election when blatantly false stories (“fake news”) spread widely on social media.

Since then, a broad consensus has emerged that we must better understand why people believe and share misinformation and figure out how to stop it.

Limiting the spread of fake news, hyperpartisan content, conspiracy theories and other kinds of misinformation is important for our democracy. It seems likely to decrease the gap between liberals and conservatives about basic facts and to diffuse some of the cross-party animosity that is so prevalent today. Less misinformation may also make it harder for individuals to win elections based on blatantly false claims.

While there has been a lot of scholarly work documenting the spread of misinformation, there has been much less study of possible solutions. And most of the solutions that social media companies have been deploying so far haven’t been very effective; they also have been almost exclusively focused on fake news rather than other kinds of problematic content.

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Can citizens trust government if falsehoods are part of the story? – Doug Criscitello

Doug Criscitello, Executive Director of MIT’s Center for Finance and Policy

Doug Criscitello, Executive Director of MIT’s Center for Finance and Policy

From The Hill 

While trust in government around the world has been trending downward for decades, trust in the U.S. government now appears to be in freefall as a host of half-truths and downright lies become entrenched in our political system. Playing fast and loose with the facts has long been a hallmark of politicians, so why be concerned with the counterfactual and scientifically dubious logic flowing from Washington these days?

When the leader of the free world cannot be trusted as an authoritative source of information on critically important topics, the world, already a dangerous place where bad things can and do happen, becomes riskier. Consider what would happen if any of the following were to occur: pandemics, financial crises, natural disasters, nuclear accidents, cyberattacks and/or military conflicts. Economists study the likelihood and impacts of these highly consequential but low probability events, called tail risks. Although unlikely, it’s bad, really bad, when one of these extreme, end-of-the-bell-curve events occurs.

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Why do people fall for fake news? – David Rand, Gordon Pennycook

Associate Professor of Management Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT Sloan School of Management

From The New York Times 

What makes people susceptible to fake news and other forms of strategic misinformation? And what, if anything, can be done about it?

These questions have become more urgent in recent years, not least because of revelations about the Russian campaign to influence the 2016 United States presidential election by disseminating propaganda through social media platforms. In general, our political culture seems to be increasingly populated by people who espouse outlandish or demonstrably false claims that often align with their political ideology.

The good news is that psychologists and other social scientists are working hard to understand what prevents people from seeing through propaganda. The bad news is that there is not yet a consensus on the answer. Much of the debate among researchers falls into two opposing camps. One group claims that our ability to reason is hijacked by our partisan convictions: that is, we’re prone to rationalization. The other group — to which the two of us belong — claims that the problem is that we often fail to exercise our critical faculties: that is, we’re mentally lazy.

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How you can help combat fake news – David Rand

Associate Professor of Management Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT Sloan School of Management

From TedxCambridgeSalon

As political misinformation and “fake news” proliferate online, many people seem to be putting partisanship before truth. But things are not as bad as you might think. David Rand, Associate Professor at MIT Sloan School of Management and the Director of the Human Cooperation Laboratory and the Applied Cooperation Team, reveals how we can protect ourselves from misleading headlines and how we can fight the spread of falsehood by “nudging” our friends to think about accuracy while scrolling through their newsfeeds.

Watch the full talk on Youtube

David Rand is Associate Professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, the Director of the Human Cooperation Laboratory and the Applied Cooperation Team at MIT, and an affiliated faculty member of the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and MIT Institute of Data, Systems, and Society.

How Lies Spread Online – Sinan Aral

From The New York Times

The spread of misinformation on social media is an alarming phenomenon that scientists have yet to fully understand. While the data show that false claims are increasing online, most studies have analyzed only small samples or the spread of individual fake stories.

My colleagues Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy and I set out to change that. We recently analyzed the diffusion of all of the major true and false stories that spread on Twitter from its inception in 2006 to 2017. Our data included approximately 126,000 Twitter “cascades” (unbroken chains of retweets with a common, singular origin) involving stories spread by three million people more than four and a half million times.

Disturbingly, we found that false stories spread significantly more than did true ones. Our findings were published on Thursday in the journal Science.

We started by identifying thousands of true and false stories, using information from six independent fact-checking organizations, including Snopes, PolitiFact and Factcheck.org. These organizations exhibited considerable agreement — between 95 percent and 98 percent — on the truth or falsity of these stories. Read More »