Echo Chambers and Misinformation – #365papers – 2017 – 38

#365papers for February 7, 2017

Del Vicario, Bessi, Zollo, Petroni, Scala, Caldarelli, Stanley, and Quattrociocchi, 2016, The spreading of misinformation online: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, v. 113, p. 554-559.

What’s it about?

This study discusses how information is spread online, specifically on Facebook. It divides groups into the ‘scientifically minded’ and the ‘conspiracy theory’ types, using publicly available data from Facebook. In these two groups, the authors examine how new ideas cascade from first appearance to spreading to everyone.

Why does it matter?

Turns out that information spreads the same way in both groups, with some differences that I didn’t understand. One thing that stood out was how information spread similarly in both groups, but that preferred information seldom passed between groups. That is to say, that each group was an ‘echo chamber’ of similar ideas.

Why did I read this?

This was read out of genuine curiosity. One of my challenges as a scientist is to try to make sure ‘real’ science is what is available to the population at large. I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to improve the likelihood that misinformation would be stopped.

Sadly, I got lost in the paper because this is well outside of my field. What I got out of it is that ‘echo chambers’ (where our online communities are all like minded and seldom are outside ideas presented) are real, and there’s not a whole lot that can be done about it.

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