Beyond Misinformation: Understanding and Coping with the “Post-Truth” Era
Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich K.H. Ecker, John Cook (December 2017)
Paper’s reference in the IEEE style?
S. Lewandowsky, U. K. H. Ecker, and J. Cook, “Beyond Misinformation: Understanding and Coping with the ‘Post-Truth’ Era,” Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 353–369, Dec. 2017.
How did you find the paper?
Google Scholar search
If applicable, write a list of the search terms you used.
- papers citing a previously reviewed paper (http://skyentific.me/ab-misinformation-and-its-correction-continued-influence-and-successful-debiasing/)
Was the paper peer reviewed? Explain how you found out.
The paper was published in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition and was peer reviewed
Does the author(s) work in a university or a government-funded research institute? If so, which university or research institute? If not, where do they work?
The Author work at:
- Author 1: University of Bristol, United Kingdom and University of Western Australia, Australia
- Author 2: University of Western Australia, Australia
- Author 3: George Mason University, United States
What does this tell you about their expertise? Are they an expert in the topic area?
The authors are all experienced researchers in the misinformation
What was the paper about?
The paper discusses the increase of “post-truth” and “fake-news” issues over the past year and explores the increase in misinformation, how it influences people and suggests ways to counter it. The paper proposes that focusing simply on misinformation will be insufficient to reverse recent trends, and that a multi-pronged focus including political, technological and social contexts is required.
The World Economic Forum in 2013 listed the rapid spread of misinformation online as one of the top trends facing the world in 2014.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, PolitiFact judged 70% of Trump’s statements to be false or mostly false, compared to 26% by Clinton. Additionally Trump’s popularity was boosted vy pro-Trump Twitter bots which were four times a prevalent as Pro-Clinton bots.
Questions posed in the paper:
- What explains the growing abundance of misinformation?
- If misinformation is corrected, do people reliably update their beliefs?
- To what extent are people concerned with whether or not information is accurate?
A functioning democracy relies on a well-informed public. If people are misinformed, chances are that societal decisions will be suboptimal. But, misinformation appears to be being actively produced and promoted, especially by conservatives in the US. And research has largely converged on the fact that corrections to misinformation are rarely fully effective; in fact when corrections challenge someone’s worldview, their belief in the information may actually increase.
Misinformation and the post-truth era is not just about the spread of misinformation, but in fact it is creating an alternative mirror reality in which science and validated truth is losing relevance. An example provided in the paper was of a climate change petition signed by 31,000 signatories. An analysis of the signatories showed the minimum criteria was a bachelors in science, 31,000 people was less than 0.3% of science graduates since 1970/71, less than 1% of the signatories had any expertise in climate science. Regardless, the petition was shared online more than 500,000 times.
The paper reports evidence that the growing polarisation in the US was not due to a “drifting apart” of the two main parties, but as a result of the Republican party moving further to the right. (https://doi.org/10.1057/pol.2014.10) . Simlarly, there has been a general decline of trust in science among conservatives during the last 40 years (https://www.scopus.com/record/display.uri?eid=2-s2.0-84859048049&origin=inward&txGid=8a0d96f6eddd40f3d34b3756ed8351f8).
The source of news also leads to peoples worldview. For example NPR or PBS listeners become better informed (https://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-2142847327&partnerID=10&rel=R3.0.0), whereas the reverse is true for those who listen to Fox News.
While conventional wisdom what that politicians should target the middle to optimise their votes, extremism lead to the reward of energising a politicians own supporters and gaining more from them than they lose from alienating middle or opposing voters.
The Washington Post analysed Trump’s statements during the first 90 days of heis presidency and identified 469 falsehoods.
An example of active misinformation was also given when Trump went on a twitter tirade when the Hamilton cost read a statement about respecting a “diverse America” which happened at the same time news he had agreed to settle a fraud lawsuit for $25m. There was little media coverage of the fraud lawsuit (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-hamilton-settlement-university-fraud-mike-pence-scandals-a7429316.html).
The author’s suggested approach is “technocognition”, an interdisciplinary approach to the design on information architectures to “nudge” against the spread of misinformation combined with a cognitively inspired program to educate the public and improve journalistic practices.
Cognition of innoculation and discernement
- Create a recognised system for ranking information (www.climatedeedback.org)
- fake news awareness sessions for the public
- training in information literacy
- Algorithmic fact checkers (https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0128193)
- Online flagging of misinformation
- Moderation of blog comments (https://theconversation.com/involving-a-community-council-in-moderation-25547, http://www.niemanlab.org/2017/03/this-site-is-taking-the-edge-off-rant-mode-by-making-readers-pass-a-quiz-before-commenting/)
Post truth politics may cease when its effectiveness is curtailed
If applicable, is this paper similar to other papers you have read for this assignment? If so, which papers and why?
If applicable, is this paper different to other papers you have read for this assignment? If so, which papers and why?
What do these similarities and differences suggest? What are your observations? Do you have any new ideas? Do you have any conclusions?
This question is to be answered after your critical analysis is completed: Which sections (if any) of your critical analysis was this paper cited in?