The article in the url below suggests that placing all the blame for 'fake news' on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter might have been misplaced. It appears that our willing gullibility also played an important role in the process:
"What if the scourge of false news on the internet is not the result of Russian operatives or partisan zealots or computer-controlled bots? What if the main problem is us?"
It seems that we might actually prefer clear-cut fake news, rather than the messy complexity of real life:
"As a result, false news travels faster, farther and deeper through the social network than true news. [Research] found that those patterns applied to every subject they studied, not only politics and urban legends, but also business, science and technology."
And, in the race for people's attention, it is not very close between fact and fiction:
"False claims were 70 percent more likely than the truth to be shared on Twitter. True stories were rarely retweeted by more than 1,000 people, but the top 1 percent of false stories were routinely shared by 1,000 to 100,000 people. And it took true stories about six times as long as false ones to reach 1,500 people."
This finding is robust to the malign influence of foreign software influences:
"Software robots can accelerate the spread of false stories. But the M.I.T. researchers, using software to identify and weed out bots, found that with or without the bots, the results were essentially the same."
The article gives many more examples to support its conclusion. While it is good to have empirical support for this, it is also not very surprising and fits into the general claim that we get the companies we deserve (just like we get the politicians we deserve) – by extension, I suppose, we get the social media we deserve. The only encouraging conclusion reached by the researchers is that the influence of fake news might not be as great as we fear. The more worrying implications, however, are that we are not consciously shaping our society, it is more like we are defaulting to our lowest common denominators. If the majority succumb to their worst impulses (whether through laziness or ignorance) and abdicate their role in shaping a better society for everyone, it is hard to see how we can tackle the bigger, more consequential problems we face, such as building a more sustainable economy.
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Why We're Easily Seduced by False News
By Steve Lohr
March 9, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final