fake news

It turns out you can explain the spread of rioting as well as fake news by understanding the spread of a communicable disease, such as the flu. Both actions and ideas spread like a virus; you need both an infectious idea and a receptive audience. A recent article in Scientific Reports applies that metaphorical thinking and some mathematical formulations to the 2005 riots in France.

The metaphor comes from an epidemiologic model called SIR, for "susceptible, infected and recovered." It describes the interaction of the infected with the susceptible. For this article, let's ignore the recovered because rioters infrequently return for more rioting and we rarely change our opinions back to what we once believed.

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From a young age, we teach science to students all wrong.

Like history textbooks, science textbooks are filled almost exclusively with facts. Facts are fine -- and they are necessary to learn new facts -- but having a head full of facts does not make somebody a scientist. Arguably, in the age of Wikipedia, memorizing information is not an efficient use of time; instead, we can outsource our memory to the cloud and use our precious neurons for other things.

Therefore, the answer to the question posed by The Atlantic, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" is a resounding, "No!" What's making us stupid is our politically partisan tribalism combined with an...

President Trump caused a controversy when he said that it is "frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write." He is absolutely right, but what can be done about it? His emotive and knee-jerk solution of revoking media licenses is deeply problematic.

It is easy to sympathize with Mr. Trump's view on what he likes to call "fake news." Science writers, like those of us at ACSH, fight pseudoscience and false information every single day. Anti-vaccine propagandists and alternative medicine practitioners literally have blood on their hands. Anti-GMO activists are manipulative liars who have libeled honest scientists. TV doctors claiming miracle cures are...

Like North Korea, everybody agrees that fake news is a big problem. But also like the Hermit Kingdom, nobody really knows what to do about it.

Facebook, a site from which a substantial number of people acquire their daily news, has decided that pages that post fake stories will be banned from advertising. That's a perfectly fine decision, but it raises a bigger and more profound question: Who decides which news is fake? Mark Zuckerberg?

The Trouble with Fake News

According to TechCrunch, Facebook collaborates with third-party fact-checkers to...

The headline promises information about a "NEW LANDMARK STUDY" linking aspartame consumption to lymphoma and leukemia in humans. Now that's a global crisis if I ever heard one! But wait — before you toss your diet sodas, let's delve a little deeper into what this website is really doing.

I suppose you could call this a "Lazarus" site because they're resurrecting some old data and claiming it's new. But it isn't. The site, called Realfarmacy, supposedly is alerting true believers to the results of the "longest running study on aspartame as a carcinogen in humans." The study they refer to was published in 2013, for one thing — hardly new. For another, it was a combination of 2 observational studies — the Nurses’ Health...

Wonder why fake news is winning as a concept and description? Look no further than a recent article and accompanying video from CNBC showcasing a new blood collection product from a Massachusetts-based start-up that is touted as “virtually painless” and pursuing the “holy grail for medical entrepreneurs.” 

Having recently written about even Harvard’s use of statistical tricks to enhance their publishing odds, it should come as no surprise that news outlets appear to be doubling as public relations firms. Don’t get me wrong, new technologies and products should get access to the mainstream media to inform as well as ignite progress and innovation. But, let...

There has rightfully been much public discussion on how to fight back against the scourge of fake news. We at ACSH attempted to shed some light on the issue by publishing a guide to detecting fake science news.

Perhaps just as troubling as the spread of fake news is the proliferation of non-news; that is, fluff pieces with little to no news value that seem aimed at generating clicks. The worthwhile goal of informing the public about relevant global events, which is presumably the entire point of journalism, has been replaced by entertainment.

Obviously, this isn't a new development, but it seems to have gone into overdrive in recent years. To stay in business, media...

Today, the Financial Times announced that Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, is raising money to launch a new media outlet, called Wikitribune. According to the article, readers will pay a voluntary monthly subscription fee to fund journalists who will write stories with help from community members. The goal is to fight back against fake news.

Any effort to fight fake news is noble and should be applauded. But, if Mr. Wales believes his new venture will be the solution to fake news, it will fall short for at least four reasons. 

First, "fake news" will never be eliminated because pure objectivity is impossible. Imagine trying to answer this question...

The war on expertise is not a new phenomenon. Nearly 60 years before Tom Nichols published his bestselling book, The Death of Expertise, author C.S. Lewis wrote about it in an essay titled "Screwtape Proposes a Toast," a follow-up to his internationally renowned book The Screwtape Letters.

In the novel, a senior devil, Screwtape, writes a series of letters to a junior devil, Wormwood, on how to be a good tempter. Thus, every moral pronouncement in the book is precisely the opposite of how humans ought to behave. The Enemy, to whom Screwtape refers constantly, is God. 

In his toast, Screwtape explains to a large gathering of "gentledevils"...

As a pediatrician, I always advise don’t be fooled by the cuteness. Urging parents to stay strong --especially in those vulnerable moments. See the big picture. Follow through with consequences for bad behavior. Easy to do in an office visit, but hard to achieve day in day out for twenty years— even with the best of intentions.

Sadly, the concept of withholding a lollipop for bad behavior isn’t necessarily transferable to media organizations when they under, over or inadequately inform the public with respect to science and health claims. Even though heightened public anxiety and co-opting of physician office visits to debunk medical myths perpetuated by such imprecise information are very tangible adverse effects, somehow the messenger continues to go unscathed.

Instant...