The Science of Fake News


This article delves into the pervasive issue of fake news, exploring its rise and impact, particularly in the context of the Internet and social media platforms. It emphasizes the need for multidisciplinary efforts to understand and mitigate the spread and influence of fake news, focusing on both individual and structural interventions.

Fake news is defined as fabricated information that mimics genuine news in form but not in organizational process or intent, lacking the editorial norms and processes that ensure accuracy and credibility in standard news outlets. The article underscores the urgency to address this issue, given its potential to undermine the credibility of legitimate news sources and distort public perception and discourse.

The Internet has significantly altered the dissemination of information, contributing to the decline in public trust in traditional news sources. Platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter play a crucial role in mediating relationships with news media, and their business models, which prioritize consumer attention, can amplify selective exposure to slanted content. These platforms are susceptible to manipulation by social bots and extreme partisans, which can further propagate fake news.

Interventions to curb fake news are categorized into two: empowering individuals and changing structural policies of platforms. Empowering individuals involves fact-checking and education to improve critical information skills. However, the effectiveness of fact-checking is debated, as people tend to seek information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs, and fact-checking might inadvertently reinforce misinformation due to the familiarity effect. Educational interventions are also explored, but their impact on assessing news source credibility is yet to be evaluated rigorously.

Structural interventions involve changes in platform policies to prevent exposure to fake news. The article suggests that platforms could provide signals of source quality, incorporate source quality into algorithmic rankings, minimize personalization of political information, and curb the automated spread of news content by bots. However, the implementation of such interventions requires cooperation between Internet platforms and researchers to understand the scale of the issue and the effectiveness of possible interventions.

In conclusion, the article emphasizes the need for ongoing research and collaboration to develop effective strategies to combat fake news and to understand the evolving dynamics of information dissemination in the digital age.

MLA Citation: Lazer, David M. J. et al. “The Science of Fake News.” ArXiv, 2018,


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