Why study fake news and digital misinformation
After the 2016 US elections, the topic of fake news and their spread on social media has become a hotly debated issue. As our group has been studying this phenomenon since 2010, our work has been covered and quoted in the media, analyzing the influence of social bots, the appearance of fake news in Facebook trends, vote suppression attempts, the magnitude of the problem, the potential of fake news in social media to sway elections, online advertising as incentives for fake news, the effectiveness of advertising bans, the steps taken by Facebook, the future of fake news, and the real consequences of conspiracy theories. Our editorial article in The Conversation has been republished widely, including by Time, Scientific American, and PBS. It is good that the problem of digital misinformation is getting the attention it deserves. Research investments are needed toward a deeper understanding of the phenomenon as well as toward socio-technical countermeasure to help mitigate the deceptive manipulation of opinions, without infringing on the free flow of information.