Global misinformation

May 1, 2017 - 12:00am -- Living City

Global misinformation
How fake news goes viral

In the era of social media, it is easier than ever to circulate information that is not true. Sources are often hidden, or someone just posts something that is all made up. Even the pope’s words have been twisted around for others’ purposes. Here’s a chart that shows how these “news” pieces reach millions of people:

  1. A tweet or a post is produced on purpose for economic or propaganda reasons, or just for fun. It can also be accidentally produced because someone draws wrong conclusions and shares them with the world.
  2. His or her followers share the content. It gets picked up by a discussion forum or a website. It is shared by people with a lot of followers.
  3. Main media (websites of national newspapers, TV) picks it up. It is shared by more people on social media as well as on traditional media with a link to the posts.

Even if someone later announces that the original content wasn’t true, the correction does not reach most people. Which reminds the message of a legend attributed to St. Philip Neri. In that tale, the saint gave this penance to a woman known for spreading gossip in 16th century Rome: he told her first to open a feather pillow and rip it open on the church bell tower.  Then she should come down from the tower and collect all the scattered feathers — an impossible task.