How a conspiracy theory (such as UFO conspiracy) becomes ‘truth’ on Facebook


How a conspiracy theory  (such as UFO conspiracy)  becomes  ‘truth’  on Facebook:    (by Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post)

“In essence, conspiracy theories and hoaxes spread in a predictable, three-step pattern.

1: An individual or page posts a piece of conspiracy news or information, introducing it to their social network.

2: That conspiracy is voluntarily shared and propagated by individuals who agree with the narrative — largely within the first two hours, but again at the 20-hour mark.

3: The conspiracy gradually branches throughout the network over a period of days, its speed slowing but its audience growing continuously.  Within a period of two weeks or so, the theory has been adopted by large portions of the community — and once they’ve been adopted, they’re “highly resistant to correction.”

In fact, as this group of researchers has found before, attempts to correct conspiracy theories often have the opposite effect:  They make conspiracists grip their beliefs all the more strongly.

Users tend to aggregate in communities of interest, which causes reinforcement and fosters confirmation bias, segregation and polarization.  This comes at the expense of the quality of the information and leads to proliferation of biased narratives fomented by unsubstantiated rumors, mistrust and paranoia.

That is not all.  Because users create these walled communities themselves — choosing to read only news that agrees with their biases, or unfriending people who challenge their sociopolitical views — there’s not much Facebook can do to remedy the situation.


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