Scientific American: “A New York University professor advocates “prebunking”—sounding the alarm before a conspiracy theory spreads too widely.“We the People,” as we self-identify in the preamble to the Constitution, are more polarized than ever in these ostensibly United States. When it is misinformation that fosters this polarization, all eyes immediately turn to social media. Research shows that Twitter, Facebook and other platforms may widen social gaps, not by creating echo chambers but by motivating users to prove commitment to identities, causes and political parties. It’s harder to overlook differences and form connections with those on “the other side” if the whole world is spectating a heated dialogue in which you are personally engaged. Then there is the very public roster of the club to which you belong—the lists that specify precisely whom you follow on social media. Following the “wrong” accounts draws judgments of complicity by association, whereas following a “desirable” cadre of people and sharing their posts affirms a feeling of belonging. Misinformation spreads through more traditional forms of social communication as well, including the mailbox, television ads and simple person-to-person contact. Outside the online global forum, we tend to maintain messier social circles and personal interactions. Audiences are smaller, mostly friends or relatives with whom you hash out differences and must coexist. These brick-and-mortar relationships leave less room to drift toward polarized viewpoints…”
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