If we were to post a picture of a chubby golden Labrador on ANY social network, it would get 100+ likes in a few hours. In contrast, the following pinned tweet has received only 14 likes (including ours) since 2018. A reshare of a same research posted by @twistopherrobin almost a year ago received one like, from us. What’s wrong with the world in just one paragraph.
We’re talking here about the systematic review titled “Fake News: A Survey of Research, Detection Methods, and Opportunities” published in 2018 by Xinyi Zhou and Reza Zafarani from the Syracuse University, USA. To be fair, this is a pretty long paper, 40 pages with around five pages of references. You would expect that from a systematic review of existing research on this complex, interdisciplinary topic. The authors claim that it is the most comprehensive list of theories for studying fake news and we haven’t found a larger one yet. Maybe the book on Truth Decay we’ve discussed in the previous post matches its size but it doesn’t cover some of the technical studies on credibility assessment and fake news detection algorithms that we at Argumentful are so passionate about.
To keep it short and not duplicate too much of what’s already in the study, we’ll focus on only a few things in this post.
Defining fake news
Although the term has been in use for a few years, there’s no rigorous definition of it. Thus, the authors use the table below to formulate two definitions of fake news:
The one that matches the common understanding is:
Definition 2: (Narrow definition of fake news). Fake news is intentionally and verifiably false news published by a news outlet.
Psychology behind fake news
If everyone was a perfect critical thinker, fake news and misinformation wouldn’t be so prevalent. However, we’re all humans and thus vulnerable to moments of bias or misperceptions. A few studies are summarised by the authors in the quest to find the psychological factors behind the propagation and proliferation of fake news. Here are our favourites with links to the original sources:
- Individuals tend to believe information is correct after repeated exposures (The Validity Effect)
- Individuals do something primarily because others are doing it (The Bandwagon Effect)
- Individuals tend to adopt insights expressed by others when such insights are gaining more popularity within their social circles (Availability Cascades)
- Individuals perceive their knowledge to surpass that of others (Illusion of asymmetric insight)
We’ll cover the part of the study about the tools and algorithms that automate fake news detection in a future article as we’re busy developing a similar feature ourselves. Until then, here is the picture we’ve promised in the beginning of this post: