Article

The Spread of False Ideas through Social Media

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Abstract

This research studies the diffusion of false ideas through social media, while under competition from other ideas. Using mined social media data around a particular event, the paper seeks to understand why and how false ideas spread. Preliminary results indicate that while social media provides for an engaging and rapid dissemination of information, its unique features may risk the veracity of information.

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... For example, Reddit has an indicator of credibility of the contributors, but this has no impact on whether or not an individual's post influenced the position taken by following contributors. In contrast, the more words they use or the more activity a comment produce and more individuals share similar information, push people to commit to that idea or message [GaKa16]. ...
... These comments included emergence, dissemination and survival of false rumours. However, they were rejected once the true suspects were identified [GaKa16]. ...
Technical Report
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This report builds on the previous work produced in the EMERGENT project, which presented the results of the first and second round of case studies carried out previously. Each of these focused on a particular type of emergency – the riots that took place in London in 2011 and six examples of floods across Europe between 2010 and 2015 – and the way social media was used and how it impacted on those involved in the emergency. This report continues this work – via three successive and inter-related steps. The first part of this report (Section 3) presents evidence from a recent round of surveys exploring citizens’ and emergency service staff’s attitudes towards and use of social media in general and in emergencies based on online surveys conducted between November 2016 and June 2017. This includes nationally representative online surveys of UK citizens, Italian citizens, German citizens and Dutch citizens, as well as an opportunity sample of emergency service staff across Europe. The second part of this report (Sections 4, 5, 6 and 7) further extends the ‘multiple case study’ methodology of the previous rounds – consisting of three groups of case studies. The first group of case studies focus on the use of particular technologies to collect and analyse social media data in organisations, including emergency services. These case studies focused on five key themes that were highlighted in rounds one and/or two: social media tools, platforms or technologies, organisational structures and facilitators, social media users and uses, information validation, emergency service staff skills and resources and moderating citizen communities. The second group of case studies explore more recent examples of man-made emergencies – as presented in previous report with reference to the London riots – by exploring the use and impact of social media during the Boston marathon bombings in 2013 and, more recently, the Brussels airport and metro bomb attacks in 2016. Finally, the last and final round of case studies focused on the testing and piloting of the EmerGent tool in Salzburg (February 2017), Dortmund (April-May 2017), and Hamburg (May-July 2017). The third part of this report (Section 8) presents the main conclusions from all five rounds of case studies and the surveys, focusing in particular on their implications for the EmerGent ‘Theory of Change’ and how the different aspects of the project contributed to bringing about different outputs, outcomes and impacts. The concluding section, Section 9, uses contribution analysis to assess the plausibility of EmerGent’s over-arching Theory of Change, and to review the evidence on its potential impacts. All case studies are provided in the Appendix (Appendices 1 to 8).
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