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Collective attention in the age of (mis) information

Mocanu, Delia, et al. "Collective attention in the age of (mis) information." arXiv preprint arXiv:1403.3344 (2014).

p.1: In this work we study, on a sample of 2.3 million individuals, how Facebook users consumed different information at the edge of political discussion and news during the last Italian electoral competition. Pages are categorized, according to their topics and the communities of interests they pertain to, in a) alternative information sources (diffusing topics that are neglected by science and main stream media); b) online political activism; and c) main stream media. We show that attention patterns are similar despite the different qualitative nature of the information, meaning that unsubstantiated claims (mainly conspiracy theories) reverberate for as long as other information. Finally, we categorize users according to their interaction patterns among the different topics and measure how a sample of this social ecosystem (1279 users) responded to the injection of 2788 false information posts. Our analysis reveals that users which are prominently interacting with alternative information sources (i.e. more exposed to unsubstantiated claims) are more prone to interact with false claims. -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.1: The World Economic Forum, in its 2013 report, has listed the “massive digital misinformation” as one of the main risks for the modern society. People perceptions, knowledge, beliefs, and opinions about the world and its evolution get (in)formed and modulated through the information they can access, most of which coming from newspapers, television, and, more recently, the Internet. -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.1: Indeed, the emergence of knowledge from this process has been dubbed collective intelligence, although we have become increasingly aware of the presence of unsubstantiated or untruthful rumors. False information is particularly pervasive on social media, fostering sometimes a sort of collective credulity. -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.1: Since unsubstantiated claims are proliferating over the Internet, what could happen if they were used as the basis for policy making? -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.2: Furthermore, we noticed the emergence of very distinct groups, namely trolls, building Facebook pages as a parodistic imitation of both alternative information sources and online political activism. Their activities range from controversial comments and posting satirical content mimicking alternative news sources, to the fabrication of purely fictitious statements, heavily unrealistic and sarcastic. Not rarely, these memes became viral and were used as evidence in online debates from political activists. Inspired by these lively and controversial social dynamics, we addressed the quantitative analysis of the interlink between information sources and political activism on the web. In particular, we want to understand the selection criteria of users mostly exposed to unsubstantiated claims. -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.2: Surprisingly, consumers of alternative news, which are the users trying to avoid the main stream media ’mass-manipulation’, are the most responsive to the injection of false claims. -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.4: Here, the social response is not affected by the topic nor by the quality of the information. Posts containing unsubstantiated claims, or about political activism, as well as regular news, cannot be distinguished through simple statistic signatures based on user engagement patterns. These different topics reverberate at the same way in this ecosystem. -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.6: Not surprisingly, mainstream media pages, present a more balanced distribution of user classes, as their purpose is to communicate neutral information. However, users labeled as political activists are more active on alternative information pages than on mainstream newspapers. In turn, users labeled as mainstream media adepts are in minority on both alternative and activist pages. According to this partitioning of the information space, now we are able to distinguish interactions occurring between users pertaining to different regions of the ideological space. -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014