PNAS-2016-Del Vicario-554-9 - The spreading of...

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The spreading of misinformation online Michela Del Vicario a , Alessandro Bessi b , Fabiana Zollo a , Fabio Petroni c , Antonio Scala a,d , Guido Caldarelli a,d , H. Eugene Stanley e , and Walter Quattrociocchi a,1 a Laboratory of Computational Social Science, Networks Department, IMT Alti Studi Lucca, 55100 Lucca, Italy; b IUSS Institute for Advanced Study, 27100 Pavia, Italy; c Sapienza University, 00185 Rome, Italy; d ISC-CNR Uos Sapienza, 00185 Rome, Italy; and e Boston University, Boston, MA 02115 Edited by Matjaz Perc, University of Maribor, Maribor, Slovenia, and accepted by the Editorial Board December 4, 2015 (received for review September 1, 2015) The wide availability of user-provided content in online social media facilitates the aggregation of people around common interests, worldviews, and narratives. However, the World Wide Web (WWW) also allows for the rapid dissemination of unsubstantiated rumors and conspiracy theories that often elicit rapid, large, but naive social responses such as the recent case of Jade Helm 15 –– where a simple military exercise turned out to be perceived as the beginning of a new civil war in the United States. In this work, we address the determinants governing misinformation spreading through a thor- ough quantitative analysis. In particular, we focus on how Facebook users consume information related to two distinct narratives: scien- tific and conspiracy news. We find that, although consumers of scientific and conspiracy stories present similar consumption pat- terns with respect to content, cascade dynamics differ. Selective exposure to content is the primary driver of content diffusion and generates the formation of homogeneous clusters, i.e., echo cham- bers. Indeed, homogeneity appears to be the primary driver for the diffusion of contents and each echo chamber has its own cascade dynamics. Finally, we introduce a data-driven percolation model mimicking rumor spreading and we show that homogeneity and polarization are the main determinants for predicting cascades size. misinformation | virality | Facebook | rumor spreading | cascades T he massive diffusion of sociotechnical systems and micro- blogging platforms on the World Wide Web (WWW) creates a direct path from producers to consumers of content, i.e., allows disintermediation, and changes the way users become informed, debate, and form their opinions (1 5). This disintermediated envi- ronment can foster confusion about causation, and thus encourage speculation, rumors, and mistrust (6). In 2011 a blogger claimed that global warming was a fraud designed to diminish liberty and weaken democracy (7). Misinformation about the Ebola epidemic has caused confusion among healthcare workers (8). Jade Helm 15, a simple military exercise, was perceived on the Internet as the beginning of a new civil war in the United States (9).
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