A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Falsehood Flies, especialy on Twitter

Falsehoods almost always beat out the truth on Twitter, penetrating further, faster, and deeper into the social network than accurate information. So says Soroush Vosoughi, a data scientist at MIT who has studied fake news since 2013 and who led the study referenced here.
A massive new study analyzes every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years—and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor. By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.................
A false story is much more likely to go viral than a real story, the authors find. A false story reaches 1,500 people six times quicker, on average, than a true story does. And while false stories outperform the truth on every subject—including business, terrorism and war, science and technology, and entertainment—fake news about politics regularly does best.
Twitter users seem almost to prefer sharing falsehoods. Even when the researchers controlled for every difference between the accounts originating rumors—like whether that person had more followers or was verified—falsehoods were still 70 percent more likely to get retweeted than accurate news............
It suggests that social-media platforms do not encourage the kind of behavior that anchors a democratic government. On platforms where every user is at once a reader, a writer, and a publisher, falsehoods are too seductive not to succeed: ..........
No being a twitter user myself I am no doubt somewhat biased on this subject however I wonder how much the content is influenced by the ease with which users can post (or repost) short clips f what should be a more in depth conversation of the subject under discussion. Is this leading to a society that communicates, and even thinks, in sound bites? I know that I am just as guilty as many others when viewing articles published on line in quickly scanning the first few lines and rarely actualy reading the full article unless it is particularly compelling.
It is unclear which interventions, if any, could reverse this tendency toward falsehood. “We don’t know enough to say what works and what doesn’t,” Aral told me. There is little evidence that people change their opinion because they see a fact-checking site reject one of their beliefs, for instance. Labeling fake news as such, on a social network or search engine, may do little to deter it as well.
In short, social media seems to systematically amplify falsehood at the expense of the truth, and no one—neither experts nor politicians nor tech companies—knows how to reverse that trend. It is a dangerous moment for any system of government premised on a common public reality.
The full quote from Jonathan Swift some three centurys ago is no less relevant now as it was back then, the difference being that now that afterthought , be it true or false, is circulated forever on the internet.
Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect: like a man, who hath thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed, or the company parted; or like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead.”
On the internet the patient never dies they just are transformed into multiple , often distorted, reflections of themselves! Then we have the Twit in Chief to the south of us busy making a mockery of what little value this 'platform' had left by daily using it to spread his strange vertion of the 'truth' (untruth?)

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Lorne said...

Just to add to your observations about Twitter, Rural, I think in this age, when people's self-worth seems to be bound up by how many likes or retweets they get, the purveyors of nonsense are motivated less by a search for truth or considered opinion than sensational posts that are more likely to go viral.

Again, I come back to one of my favourite observations: the dearth of critical thinking skills and depth is eroding our democracy.

Rural said...

I entirely agree Lorne!