New Horizons in Science

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Why do we fall for fake news, and what can be done about it?

Topic: Communication
Fake news through a magnifying glass
Monday, October 28, 2019 -
4:10pm to 5:00pm

Fake news can be deadly. During 2017 and 2018, 46 people were lynched by vigilante mobs after false rumors of child kidnappings and organ harvesting spread through rural India in the form of doctored videos shared via the WhatsApp encrypted message system. Government efforts to encourage people to think critically about news sources had little effect, and WhatsApp had few tools to control the spread of fake videos in an encrypted environment. S. Shyam Sundar, with funding from WhatsApp, is engaged in understanding this tragic example of the viral nature of fake news transmitted by video. His research indicates that people do not process video critically or differentiate between news sources, especially when the news arrives in a customized environment through a social connection. Sundar and his colleagues have received NSF funding to build an algorithm to detect fake news. He hopes to come up with a way for human and artificial agents to work together to reduce the problem. The grant itself, he says, triggered a flurry of FOIA requests and "fake news about our fake news project."


Image: Christoph Scholz (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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