RECOMMENDED READING: “Information Overload Helps Fake News Spread, and Social Media Knows It”

December 9th, 2020 14:01

Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can is report­ing how what is described as “infor­ma­tion over­load” is inter­act­ing with social media to spread dis­in­for­ma­tion. The report describes how this syn­er­gy func­tions by cit­ing a fic­tion­al user named “Andy”:

This exam­ple illus­trates a mine­field of cog­ni­tive bias­es. We pre­fer infor­ma­tion from peo­ple we trust, our in-group. We pay atten­tion to and are more like­ly to share infor­ma­tion about risks—for Andy, the risk of los­ing his job. We search for and remem­ber things that fit well with what we already know and under­stand. These bias­es are prod­ucts of our evo­lu­tion­ary past, and for tens of thou­sands of years, they served us well. Peo­ple who behaved in accor­dance with them—for exam­ple, by stay­ing away from the over­grown pond bank where some­one said there was a viper—were more like­ly to sur­vive than those who did not. Mod­ern tech­nolo­gies are ampli­fy­ing these bias­es in harm­ful ways, how­ev­er. Search engines direct Andy to sites that inflame his sus­pi­cions, and social media con­nects him with like-mind­ed peo­ple, feed­ing his fears. Mak­ing mat­ters worse, bots—automated social media accounts that imper­son­ate humans—enable mis­guid­ed or malev­o­lent actors to take advan­tage of his vulnerabilities.

Read the rest here.