"Separating Truth from Lies"

Project Information Literacy logoOur friends at Project Information Literacy recently interviewed Takis Metaxas, a computer scientist at Wellsley College. If you're curious about the phenomenon of "fake news" and the power of social media in today's society, read what Metaxas has to say about his research. He warns that even the smartest among us can be duped:

"While we can often identify and avoid being tricked by fake news, the unfortunate fact is that any of us could fall for one of these lies, about fake news, online fraud, especially if it is presented in a way that matches our biases and prior beliefs. In order to recognize fake news, diversity is key. It can be easier to recognize fake news if a group of diverse people, with a broad variety of individual biases (and therefore tendencies to believe or be skeptical about different stories), engages with the information together. In contrast, members of a homogeneous group (an “echo chamber”) are easily fooled when presented with lies that conform to their common biases.

"Unfortunately, people tend to form echo chambers in social media and in life. We find comfort and safety with others who are similar to ourselves. And when we are presented with evidence that our beliefs are incorrect, we try hard to avoid challenging our belief system. This is when we are most susceptible to lies; when they are presented in a way that confirms our prior beliefs."