Mainstream Misinformation

Mainstream Misinformation

Annabelle Rosse, Staff Writer

Think about the last time you learned something new concerning the news. Where did you find that information? Was it plastered on some type of social media page like Facebook or Twitter? If so, were you wise enough to double-check these facts with a different source? Hopefully, you did because you may be unaware of the new age we are now in; one of untruths and inaccurate statements.


Nowadays, the internet acts like the tinder for misinformation while the posts/users’ reactions and comments are the gasoline. It’s something big in America these days, mostly with the President and his own Twitter account. Now, whether you agree with him or not, it’s obvious that these tweets are widely popular throughout the internet. From late-night TV hosts to Trump supporters themselves, these tweets spread rapidly. Additionally, it’s also been shown, by a couple of social experiments, that false, provocative statements spread quicker than true, ‘boring’ ones. Here is one certain experiment conducted by a CBS journalist last year.


On April 23, 2018, there was a tragic attack in the city of Toronto. A young man drove a white van through a crowded street, killing 10 people. After the attack, rumors spread quickly since the police were resistant to release information. These rumors suggested that this was a terror attack. However, it’s helpful to remember that these are simply rumors and were not publically verified by authorities. It’s interesting to see how fast these statements spread, and it inspired a CBS journalist, Natasha Fhata, to conduct a study that shines a light on the working behind these wildfire effects.


For her social experiment, Fhata put out two statements into the social media world, both giving eyewitness accounts of the event. While one statement claimed that the attacker was white, the other challenges that, claiming the attacker was actually “Middle Eastern” and “angry.” It would eventually turn out that the former statement was true. But, now think about that, which tweet would spread the fastest? The one giving accurate information or the one sending false statements? Well, the answer might be surprising.


The results of her social experiment showed that, in fact, the false statement spread farthest. Within 24 hours, the false tweet that claimed the attacker was Middle Eastern, gathered about 1600 retweets while the correct tweet collected just under 200. This shows a confusing narrative where more provocative or controversial facts caught quicker than the truth. This can be really confusing for consumers who digest this information. They assume that the information that is most popular is the truth, but, normally, it’s the complete opposite. Some news outlets try to spice issues and news stories by sprinkling white lies and exaggerated truths. All this ‘spice’ can add up, overall making the true facts morph into untruths. These interesting stories spread by peaked interest across the internet, attaching to anyone who’ll listen. Then, if these people find the stories intriguing and/or share-worthy, they’ll retweet or repost, spreading the news farther into the web.


Now, even though this is a big issue in this digital era, there are ways to protect yourself. First, it’s very important to double check serious information you see on social media, probably from a respected news source. Second, if you do indeed find mistruths in stories, make sure to make it known to other readers that maybe this certain source isn’t reliable. Being safe and smart on the internet is beneficial to everyone, so do your best to seek reliable sources and not get caught up in mainstream misinformation.