• Truth decayTech fixes cannot protect us from disinformation campaigns

    More than technological fixes are needed to stop countries from spreading disinformation on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, according to two experts. They argue that policymakers and diplomats need to focus more on the psychology behind why citizens are so vulnerable to disinformation campaigns.

  • Truth decayRise of European populism linked to vaccine hesitancy

    There is a significant association between the rise of populism across Europe and the level of mistrust around vaccines, according to a new study. “It seems likely that scientific populism is driven by similar feelings to political populism, for example, a profound distrust of elites and experts by disenfranchised and marginalized parts of the population,” says the study’s lead author. “Even where programs objectively improve the health of targeted populations, they can be viewed with suspicion by communities that do not trust elites and experts.”

  • DeradicalizationDeradicalization and countering violent extremism

    Since the early 2000s, more than fifty countries have developed initiatives to counter violent extremism (CVE). Despite this, there still remains a lack of strong evidence on which interventions are effective. Researchers have reviewed the literature on CVE programs to give examples of what good CVE practice should look like.

  • Video games & violenceViolent video games not associated with adolescent aggression: Study

    Researchers have found no relationship between aggressive behavior in teenagers and the amount of time spent playing violent video games. “The idea that violent video games drive real-world aggression is a popular one, but it hasn’t tested very well over time,” says lead researcher Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute. “Despite interest in the topic by parents and policy-makers, the research has not demonstrated that there is cause for concern.”

  • TerrorismThe group dynamics that make terrorist teams work

    By Matthias Spitzmuller

    Acts of terrorism are harrowing and can cause extensive damage and tragic deaths, and they have been occurring with alarming frequency over the last decade. Scholars, governments and analysts have spent a lot of time exploring individual motivations of terrorists. However, terrorist activities are typically performed by groups, not isolated individuals. Examining the role of team dynamics in terrorist activities can elucidate how terrorist teams radicalize, organize and make decisions. There is a common misconception in the West that leaders of terrorist groups are recruiting and brainwashing people into giving up their lives to establish a new political order. This is an incorrect model that has been vastly exaggerated in the media, based on a Western understanding of leadership.

  • ViolenceNo link found between violent video games and behavior

    Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent. In a series of experiments, with more than 3,000 participants, the team demonstrated that video game concepts do not ‘prime’ players to behave in certain ways and that increasing the realism of violent video games does not necessarily increase aggression in game players.

  • Truth decayThe manipulation of social media metadata

    Bad actors manipulate metadata to create effective disinformation campaigns. and a new study provides tips for researchers and technology companies trying to spot this “data craft.” “Data craft” is the term the report’s author uses to describe all those “practices that create, rely on, or even play with the proliferation of data on social media by engaging with new computational and algorithmic mechanisms of organization and classification.”

  • Conspiracy theoryWho believes in conspiracies? Research offers a theory

    The Apollo moon landing was staged. The CIA killed JFK. 9/11 was a plot by the U.S. government to justify a war in the Middle East. President Barack Obama was not a natural born citizen. The massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school was staged as a pretense for increased gun control. The “deep state” is trying to destroy Donald Trump’s presidency. Conspiracy theories have been cooked up throughout history, but they are increasingly visible lately, likely due in part to the president of the United States routinely embracing or creating them. What draws people to conspiracy theories? New research suggests that people with certain personality traits and cognitive styles are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories.

  • Conspiracy theorySomething’s going on here: Building a comprehensive profile of conspiracy thinkers

    By Joshua Hart

    By and large, people gravitate toward conspiracy theories that seem to affirm or validate their political views. Republicans are vastly more likely than Democrats to believe the Obama “birther” theory or that climate change is a hoax. Democrats are more likely to believe that Trump’s campaign “colluded” with the Russians. But some people are habitual conspiracists who entertain a variety of generic conspiracy theories.

  • Truth decayBelief in creationism, conspiracy theories both based on the same thinking error: study

    It is not uncommon to hear someone espouse the idea that “everything happens for a reason” or that something that happened was “meant to be.” Now, researchers have found that this kind of teleological thinking is linked to two seemingly unrelated beliefs: creationism, the belief that life on Earth was purposely created by a supernatural agent, and conspiracism, the tendency to explain historical or current events in terms of secret conspiracies or conspiracy theories.

  • Conspiracy theoriesWho is likely to believe in conspiracy theories?

    Conspiracy theories about government officials and the institutions they represent are widespread and rooted in U.S. history, but they are particularly prevalent in times of rapid social and cultural change, increased cultural and ethnic diversity, and widespread collective action among members of previously marginalized groups. “For many members of the public, particularly individuals who have benefited from existing social and political arrangements, these developments and changes are quite threatening and can motivate compensatory endorsement of conspiracy beliefs or theories.”

  • Truth decayWhy you stink at fact-checking

    By Lisa Fazio

    People are very bad at picking up on factual errors in the world around them. Research from cognitive psychology shows that people are naturally poor fact-checkers and it is very difficult for us to compare things we read or hear to what we already know about a topic. In what’s been called an era of “fake news,” this reality has important implications for how people consume journalism, social media and other public information.

  • Considered opinionDeep Fakes: A looming crisis for national security, democracy and privacy?

    By Robert Chesney and Danielle Citron

    Events in the last few years, such as Russia’s broad disinformation campaign to undermine Western democracies, including the American democratic system, have offered a compelling demonstration of truth decay: how false claims — even preposterous ones — can be disseminated with unprecedented effectiveness today thanks to a combination of social media ubiquitous presence and virality, cognitive biases, filter bubbles, and group polarization. Robert Chesney and Danielle Citron write in Lawfare that the resulting harms are significant for individuals, businesses, and democracy – but that the problem may soon take a significant turn for the worse thanks to deep fakes. They urge us to get used to hearing that phrase. “It refers to digital manipulation of sound, images, or video to impersonate someone or make it appear that a person did something—and to do so in a manner that is increasingly realistic, to the point that the unaided observer cannot detect the fake. Think of it as a destructive variation of the Turing test: imitation designed to mislead and deceive rather than to emulate and iterate.”

  • Combatting truth decayMisinformation campaigns, social media, and science

    In some key domains of public life there appear to be coordinated efforts to undermine the reputation of science and innovation. Scientists now protest in the streets just to get governments to base policy on scientific evidence. Long-held scientific consensus on issues like the causes and consequences of climate change or the importance of vaccines for public health is increasingly contested. A new initiative will examine the interplay between systematic misinformation campaigns, news coverage, and increasingly important social media platforms for public understanding of science and technological innovation.

  • Combatting truth decayQ&A with Seth Mnookin on the fallacy of “both sides” journalism

    Seth Mnookin is a professor of science writing, director of the Graduate Program in Science Writing, and director of the MIT Communications Forum. In his most recent book, The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy, which won the Science in Society Award, Mnookin tackles a fundamental question: How do we decide what the truth is? Mnookin recently spoke about the state of journalism in an era when public trust is threatened by cries of “fake news” from political partisans aiming to discredit unflattering stories and to diminish the efficacy of the free press. “We’ve seen too many journalists confuse not taking sides with not calling out liars and frauds,” Mnookin says.