Northeastern University, along with Harvard University collaborated to put together a conference on the hot yet serious topic of fake news. Many people, including social media gurus to political scientists, attended the convention held in Harvard’s law school. David Lazer, a renowned professor of Political Science at the Northeastern, along with Harvard professor Matthew Baum organised the entire conference.
“A well-functioning democracy requires a healthy ecosystem of truth-tellers,” said Lazer. “Citizens need to be informed and we need institutions to communicate what’s happening in the world. In a democracy, we have to respect these enduring differences in a body politick, but the fact that there’s legitimate diversity doesn’t mean that all presentations of reality are legitimate.”
Lazer defined fake news as ‘a subgenre of misinformation’, calling it “information regarding the state of the world that’s constructed with disregard of the facts and invokes the symbols of existing truth-tellers. It misinforms by appealing to the very worst of human nature, and undermines truth-tellers at the same time.”
The fake news and the psychology behind this misinformation are pretty much obvious, once we recognise the signs of it. The first and foremost of the signs is familiarity. There is a big fat chance that the more familiar the fake story is, the more accurate it seems to the people. “The more people are exposed to fake news, the less they’re able to discern that it’s fake,” said Gordon Pennycook, who is pursuing his post-doctorate at Yale University. The next factor that comes in this is the social community. You will be obviously tainted with your community’s views, especially when you will be analysing and evaluating news. Politics also play an important role; the fake news is usually split along the party lines. If the news conforms with what you already think, then it will be consumed quicker.
Fake News has also become easy to spread because there is a valid quality to the news that makes people think it’s authentic. According to Michael Schudson, Columbia University professor, the powerful – and negative – emotions of fear, resentment, and anxiety are making people believe in such news. “Endorsement by people we normally believe to be credible authorities makes fake news more believable,” he said.