Because misinformation now has the potential to affect behavior on a massive networked scale, it is urgently important to understand how it works and what can be done to mitigate its harmful effects.
But one may ask, how can words hurt? We've all heard of a bully, especially online, well, it can also happen seemingly in the opposite direction, from your friends.
Consider how your friends talk about anything; consider how trust, reputation and influence are important measures in your friends' network and how do they support the worthiness of information, products, services, opinions and recommendations (Ureña, Kou, Dong, Chiclana, & Herrera-Viedma).
In social networks you might have talked about one person's opinion (an influencer, politician, celebrity, sports hero), then somehow they've lost your loyalty (scandals, sponsors, interviews), and then you don't trust them the next day. Now their influence over how you absorb information about them and relay that information is devoid of sharing. Same is true for many aspects of trusted networks in news, media, and education.
In the last ten years there's been an acceleration of social networks at our fingertips. This change not only allows us to connect with others worldwide, but also allows us to consume more and varied information, to meet our information needs.
The following resources will highlight how humans gravitate towards information that we internally want to believe is true. Some sources say it is because the content already fits into a pattern of information where our opinions meet (confirmation bias). Some sources say it is because of lost faith and trust in the news media (societal trust) and therefore there's a distrust of information that doesn’t conform to the pattern of information that makes sense to us (post-truth).
There's nothing quite like a home-cooked meal, right? Ever wonder why? It's familiar, it's tried and true, it's comforting to revisit something you already know you like. Same can be said for information, if it fits into our understanding of life as we know it, we accept it easily. We don't have to question what we've previously known to be true, we don't have to feel vulnerable that we were wrong in the past, and we don't have to shift our understanding of a topic to fit into what we believe. Read more on the cognitive bias page.
"On-line platforms (like Facebook and Google) foster the communication to develop large-scale influence networks in which the quality of the interactions (clicks, likes, views) can be evaluated based on trust and reputation. In these digital media scenarios, the evaluation of the credibility of the information constitutes a more challenging problem than in conventional media, because of its inherent anonymous, open nature that is characterized by a lack of strong governance structures, which provide a favorable environment for malicious users to spread wrong information, virus, or even files" (Urena, et.al.).
When society overlooks objective facts in favor of interests that appeal to emotions or personal beliefs, we can consider the world we live in is a post-truth era. Many of the smaller communities, previously unknown to the wider world (fringe communities) are now easily heard in mainstream media upending our previous ability to accept facts when we hear them. Previously, information presented as facts when confirmed by multiple people we might easily add that fact to our understanding. Yet in today's networked world another set of conflicting information is said to be fact by multiple people, how do we decide?
Aaron C. Weinschenk & Christopher T. Dawes (2019) The genetic and psychological underpinnings of generalized social trust, Journal of Trust Research, 9:1, 47-65, DOI: 10.1080/21515581.2018.1497516
Harsin, J. Post-Truth and Critical Communication Studies. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Retrieved 2 Aug. 2022, from https://oxfordre.com/communication/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228613-e-757
Ureña, Kou, G., Dong, Y., Chiclana, F., & Herrera-Viedma, E. (2019). A review on trust propagation and opinion dynamics in social networks and group decision making frameworks. Information Sciences, 478, 461–475. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ins.2018.11.037
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