Individuals bear much of the blame for fake news. The study found that false rumors travel the Internet much more rapidly and widely than facts. These untruths get their velocity and reach not from celebrity influencers but from ordinary citizens sharing among their networks.
Evidently, we humans have a strong preference for novelty and sensationalism over scrupulous reality.
.. “Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information,” the MIT scientists concluded after examining more than 125,000 stories shared by more than 3 million Twitter users. The most viral lies, they found, involved “false political news.”
.. Politics is tribal. It is a way of organizing conflict.
.. We are inclined to credit anything we hear from our allies and to believe the worst of our foes. In politics we see information as potential ammunition; we evaluate it for its potency and lethality rather than its strict veracity.
.. the Internet smokes out our self-deceptions and shows us as we really are.
Gambling and porn flourish on the Internet. Reasoned civil discourse, not so much.
.. This is a profound blow to idealists of the marketplace of ideas. From Adam Smith to Friedrich Hayek to James Surowiecki, the author of “The Wisdom of Crowds,” wise thinkers have emphasized the positive economic effects of dispersed power. A great many people, free to pursue the wisdom of their experiences and the perspectives from their vantage points, will arrive — as if moved by an invisible hand — at better results than any single mind or central planning bureaucracy could achieve.
.. But it turns out that the crowd is wise only when it is asking the right questions. A crowd determined to get the best value on flat-screen televisions will soon discover the proper price; but a crowd swept up by tulips or cryptocurrency may find itself pricing euphoria instead of value.What we see from Twitter and other platforms clearly signals that too many people are asking the wrong questions.. our ability to spread our careless and malign thinking is brand-new. Of all the digital-age jargon, perhaps none is more apt than “going viral,” because the contagion of bad information is a matter of individuals passing germs from host to host with geometric speed. Only disciplined digital hygiene can halt the epidemic.
They didn’t start with Trump, and they won’t end with him.
.. It is comforting to think that Trump is the only thing standing between us and the good old dysfunctional ways of Washington. But I have my doubts. The president’s disruption engine is powered by three paradoxes. Each was made possible by technological innovations. All will endure long after this ringmaster moves his circus to another town.
Paradox #1: More information, less credibility
Today Google processes 61,000 search queries a second. That’s 5.2 billion queries a day.
.. Because the barriers to entry are so low. In the Middle Ages, when paper was a sign of wealth and books were locked up in monasteries, knowledge was considered valuable and creating it was costly.
.. We now live at the opposite extreme, where anyone—from foreign adversaries to any crackpot with a conspiracy theory—can post original “research” online.
.. Last month, a Pew survey found that for the first time, a majority of Republicans had a negative view of American universities.
Paradox #2: More connectivity, less civility
Today nearly half the world is online. By 2020 more people are expected to have cell phones than running water.
Paradox #3: The wisdom of crowds, the duplicity of crowds
Technology has unleashed the wisdom of crowds. Now you can find an app harnessing the experiences and ratings of likeminded users for just about anything. The best taco truck in Los Angeles? Yelp. The highest rated puppy crate? Amazon. Youth hostels in Barcelona? TripAdvisor
.. But the 2016 presidential election revealed that not all crowds are wise, or even real. The wisdom of crowds can be transformed into the duplicity of crowds. Deception is going viral.
.. On social media, one person can masquerade as hundreds, even thousands, with fake personas. Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, it’s also possible to create armies of automated social media bots to develop, manipulate, and spread deceptive information at speeds and scales unimaginable before now.