Misinformation and biases infect social media, both intentionally and accidentally
This highly recommended article from The Conversation exposes 3 types of bias identified by Indiana University. Hereafter are our takeaways.
1/ Bias in the brain
More information means less quality content shared
“Cognitive biases originate in the way the brain processes the information that every person encounters every day. The brain can deal with only a finite amount of information, and too many incoming stimuli can cause information overload. That in itself has serious implications for the quality of information on social media. We have found that steep competition for users’ limited attention means that some ideas go viral despite their low quality – even when people prefer to share high-quality content.”
Beware emotions in headline trap
“One cognitive shortcut happens when a person is deciding whether to share a story that appears on their social media feed. People are very affected by the emotional connotations of a headline, even though that’s not a good indicator of an article’s accuracy.”
What matters is where it’s coming from.
“Much more important is who wrote the piece.”
TrustedOut foundation: profile who’s behind to evaluate your trustworthiness appreciation and the path to greater trust in media:
2/ Bias in society
Like seeks like (“Birds of a feather flock together”)
“When people connect directly with their peers, the social biases that guide their selection of friends come to influence the information they see. …social networks are particularly efficient at disseminating information – accurate or not – when they are closely tied together and disconnected from other parts of society.”
“Us vs Them”
“The tendency to evaluate information more favorably if it comes from within their own social circles creates “echo chambers” that are ripe for manipulation, either consciously or unintentionally. This helps explain why so many online conversations devolve into “us versus them” confrontations.”
We are right. Distrust in fact-checking
“…during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections [analysis] shows that Twitter accounts that shared misinformation were almost completely cut off from the corrections made by the fact-checkers. When we drilled down on the misinformation-spreading accounts, we found a very dense core group of accounts retweeting each other almost exclusively – including several bots. The only times that fact-checking organizations were ever quoted or mentioned by the users in the misinformed group were when questioning their legitimacy or claiming the opposite of what they wrote.”
3/ Bias in the machine
Getting more of the same. Accurate. Or not.
“The third group of biases arises directly from the algorithms used to determine what people see online. Both social media platforms and search engines employ them. These personalization technologies are designed to select only the most engaging and relevant content for each individual user. But in doing so, it may end up reinforcing the cognitive and social biases of users, thus making them even more vulnerable to manipulation.”
Illusory truth effect. Repeat until it feels true.
“For instance, the detailed advertising tools built into many social media platforms let disinformation campaigners exploit confirmation bias by tailoring messages to people who are already inclined to believe them. Also, if a user often clicks on Facebook links from a particular news source, Facebook will tend to show that person more of that site’s content. This so-called “filter bubble” effect may isolate people from diverse perspectives, strengthening confirmation bias.”
Popularity bias. More clicks makes it feel more true.
“Another important ingredient of social media is information that is trending on the platform, according to what is getting the most clicks. We call this popularity bias, because we have found that an algorithm designed to promote popular content may negatively affect the overall quality of information on the platform. This also feeds into existing cognitive bias, reinforcing what appears to be popular irrespective of its quality.”
Get information from Traditional Media, have conversation on Social Media. Not the other way around.
Unsurprisingly, and somewhat reassuring, numbers from Reuters/Oxford (hereafter for the US) show trust in social media are the lowest with 13% vs 34% for news overall and the highest at 50% with News/Media I use. (we developed this with this post “While distrust is general, trust definition is personal.“)
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