How to start a conspiracy theory on Facebook
The Atlantic - 03/19/2014
In a 2013 report summarizing global challenges, the World Economic Forum singled out “massive digital misinformation” as “one of the main risks for the modern society.” Social networks may be structurally optimized for sharing; their structures, however, don’t tend to distinguish between good information and bad. Which means that sites like Facebook aren’t just a great repositories for updates from your friends and pictures of your dog; they can also be breeding grounds for rumors, lies, and conspiracy theories. “False information,” write Walter Quattrociocchi and a group of colleagues at Northeastern University, “is particularly pervasive on social media, fostering sometimes a sort of collective credulity.”
That’s the assumption, anyway. And Quattrociocchi and his colleagues wanted to test it—with a focus on Facebook. On its platform, they wondered, are there meaningful differences in the ways we interact with information that is true … and information that is false?