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Fake News and Social Media: Causes and Real-Life Impacts


The phrase Fake News is synonymous for, “misinformation”. Reporting of hoaxes and misleading information have become commonplace in the mainstream media due to the rise of social media. Fake news’ prominence and the confusion surrounding it is due to the ease that it can be spread on social media platforms and social networking sites. Even In recent years, the term, “fake news” became a politicized way to criticize unfavorable media coverage.

This has confused many internet users. According to a 2019 Pew Research survey, Americans see fake news as detrimental to democracy. 68% of adults in the United States, say made up news impacts Americans’ confidence in government institutions. More than half say it impacts political leaders’ ability to get work done. The prevalence of online fake news and the politicization of the term makes it harder for average people to discern real information.

The following list of articles discuss how the fake news and hoax phenomenon took shape on the internet and why it could change how our society engages with important issues.

#1 Trends in the diffusion of misinformation on social media

This article published by the National Bureau of Economic Research focuses on concerns that misinformation on social media damages democracy and its institutions. The authors measured how online users interacted with fake news stories on several websites as well as Facebook and Twitter. Data from the study shows that less fake news is spread when Platforms limit accessibility and take measures to point out fake news to users.

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#2 Online Activists vs. Kraft Foods: Social Media Hijacking

This article published in Public Relations Review is another look at how activists peddling fake news can affect issue confidence surrounding a debated topic. One blogger’s attempt to get Kraft Food to make changes turned into quantifiable change, but it took an online rumor to get their attention.

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#3 The Spread of low-credibility content by social bots

Authors for this study published in Nature Communications also looked at the social risk of fake news and misinformation. After studying millions of messages on Twitter sent during a year, the authors found much of this information is spread by “bots” or fake accounts that automatically generate messages. The study suggests that eliminating bots from social media platforms could sharply curb the spread of fake news.

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#4 Anatomy of an online misinformation network

This review of fake news spread before and after the 2016 presidential election explores the spread of fake news and how it distracts from fact checking. The authors of this article in PLOS one explores the networks that spread misinformation and effective ways to disrupt them.

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#5 Bots increase exposure to negative and inflammatory content

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, this article examines how social media influences perception. It links the presence of bots on social media with their impact on social media users’ perception of reality. This looks at the type of contents that bots spread and how that misleading content has caused conflict within our social institutions.

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#6 Dominos’ response to its YouTube crisis

This is a case study about online hoaxes published in Management Communication Quarterly. The study examines a 2009 Dominos’ Pizza as Youtube Crisis that involved two employees that posted a video pretending to use contaminated ingredients to make pizzas and sandwiches. It explains tactics in responding to these types of hoaxes, including the suggestion that responding on the same platform is effective in countering the fake news.

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#7 Social media hoaxes and the role of issue confidence

In this article published in Telematics and Informatics, the authors delve into the link into social media hoaxes and political ideology. The issue explores to how people engage with science issues that have been politicized. The research found that peoples’ confidence in these issues can be greatly influenced by social media hoaxes and examines the ethical considerations of activists using hoaxes to influence issue confidence surrounding the science.

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#8 How Twitter Bots help fuel political feuds

Bot research has a lot of ties to fake news information. Chris Baraniuk’s Scientific American article examines how the misinformation networks spread fake news that lead to partisan disagreement. Fake News, especially on Twitter have real-world results that show how bot-driven campaigns can influence peoples’ opinions.

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#9 Many Americans believe fake news is sowing confusion

Pew Research analyzed Americans’ opinions of fake news on the internet and how they view it is influencing society. The findings show that Americans are becoming aware of the fake news phenomenon, but many have hard times identifying it and believe they have taken part in sharing it.

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#10 Fake news on Twitter during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

The authors of this article in the journal, Science analyzed the fake news spread on Twitter during the 2016 United States presidential election. It examined how much fake news was spread, who sent most of the fake news, and who were the main consumers of the fake news. It found that individuals most likely to engage with the content were older, conservative-leaning voters who were highly interested in political news.

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#11 People spread fake news faster on Twitter than bots

This article takes another look at the bot theory. The author of this article in the magazine, Science found that bots spread fake news and real news equally, while human users spread fake news faster and more widespread across social media.

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