Liking is Believing

Liking is Believing title=
Liking is Believing
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By Shelly Leachman, UC Santa Barbara

When it comes to fake news, it’s not seeing, but collecting "likes" that’s believing.

A new experiment by communication professor Joseph B. Walther and graduate students at UC Santa Barbara’s Center for Information Technology and Society (CITS), published in the Journal of Communication, examined the effect of social approval on people’s belief in fake news stories. Their study found that after retweeting a fake, political news story, the more hearts people got — the symbol indicating another user liked their posting — the more they agreed with that story’s content. But the social approval effect only happened when it was “bad news” that targeted the “other” political party.

“The conventional wisdom was that people buy into fake news passively, at least when it aligns with their existing beliefs,” said Walther, director of CITS and Bertelsen Presidential Chair in Technology and Society. “This research focused on what’s social about social media:the interactions and approval among users.”

Social media have unique symbols people use to communicate that approval: Twitter’s heart button, for instance, or Facebook’s thumbs-up icon. When someone shares news on social media, and their post accumulates these approval symbols from other users, it’s a potentially powerful reward that can affect an individual’s perception that what they shared is true.

Researchers found that when a story portrays a politician negatively, the more social approval someone gets for sharing it, the worse they perceive the person depicted in the story to be. The effect was limited to negative stories that focus on a politician from the “other” political party. 

To test the theory that the accumulation of hearts and thumbs-up affects perceptions when sharing news on social media, Walther and team’s experiment took some unusual steps. They created realistic fake news stories and posted them on a website similar to those that real fake news peddlers use: a web domain with a newsy name, 

The site featured two positive and two negative stories, each describing California elected officials (who did not actually exist). One positive story portrayed the official’s efforts to acquire more “personal protective equipment” for hospital workers treating Covid patients. A negative story portrayed a state senator without a mask shaking hands with constituents outside a (bogus) grocery store, flouting the social distancing requirements in place at the time. There were two versions of each story, one that labeled the politician with a “D” for Democrat and another with an “R” for Republican. The stories on the website were linked to teaser messages on bogus Twitter accounts that also were created for the study.

Over 600 social media users participated in the two-part study. They were asked to look at two of the tweets, read the news stories linked to the tweets, and retweet the one they thought that others should read, adding an original comment encouraging others to do so. Up to 20 UCSB undergraduate research assistants “liked” the retweets — that is, clicked a heart under each message — in specific, randomly assigned amounts. Some tweets received no hearts, while others received 5, 10, 15 or 20. (Most real-world non-celebrity tweets get a handful of hearts or less). After a few days, participants went to finish the study. They reviewed their retweets and how many hearts they got, indicated whether they tried to fact-check the story and completed survey scales measuring their perception of the politician in the story.

Results indicated that merely retweeting a story didn’t affect participant perceptions. Neither did any attempted fact-checking. “Good” politicians were favored whether or not they belonged to the same or the opposite political party as study participants. For the negative news, though, it was a different story: When participants retweeted a negative news story depicting a politician from the political party opposite of their own, the hearts made a difference. In that case, the more hearts their retweets collected, the worse they thought of the politician in the fake story. 

“It’s not just reading fake news that makes the difference,” said Walther. “It’s not even sharing a story with others that makes the difference. When it comes to destructive portrayals of politicians — the most common and most dangerous type of misinformation — it’s social interaction with others, even through those small signals of social approval that are native to social media platforms, that magnifies false beliefs.”

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Basicinfo805 Dec 09, 2022 12:38 PM
Liking is Believing

The smartest ones are those that think for themselves. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. Both sides of our current government are blowing it on their own ways. And Sacjon I agree completely, it comes down to critical thinking. Question what you read. In science, and by that I mean publishing articles and papers, it’s called peer-review. You want to publish something in a scientific journal? Great, send it through your peers and let them break it down. And by that I don’t mean criticize based on ideology and politics (like here on Edhat). No, it’s taking a deep look through data.

Where does critical thinking start? It’s not on social media that’s for sure.

a-1670628154 Dec 09, 2022 03:22 PM
Liking is Believing

Says someone who constantly post denying science.

sblocal1967 Dec 09, 2022 10:13 AM
Liking is Believing

Plays right into the liberal run education system. Less educated people = easier to manipulate with propaganda = more votes.

chico berkeley Dec 09, 2022 09:31 PM
Liking is Believing

What do you get paid to spin such BS?
Your bias is showing.

Voice of Reason Dec 09, 2022 04:38 PM
Liking is Believing

what does that have to do with things that actually happened that were fist called "conspiracy theories"?

a-1670632347 Dec 09, 2022 04:32 PM
Liking is Believing

The commenter at 3:41 forgot to include the most important term in their propaganda lexicon - "witch hunt".

Voice of Reason Dec 09, 2022 03:58 PM
Liking is Believing

Which one of those is false and an actual 'conspiracy theory'. (don't include Sac's)

a-1670636658 Dec 09, 2022 05:44 PM
Liking is Believing

Nonsense posted at 3:41

Trump colluding with Russian's was a manufactured Dem hoax
Just insufficient evidence of intent to charge. Did he or did he not
ask the Russians to release some of his fantasy data?

Wuhan lab leak theory
Not even remotely likely, given the genetic evidence.

covid vaccines don't prevent infection
No vaccine has ever prevented transmission.

eventually everyone will get covid
Absolutes are usually falsehoods.

covid deaths/hosp. patients overstated
Millions of excess deaths routinely glossed over by COVID minimizing twits.

Hunter Biden laptop is real
The laptop may be. The purported contents aren't.

Antifa is a thing
Yes, a totally fabricated thing.

Democrats communicated with Big Tech to censor political rivals
Ha ha ha.

climate apocalypse is a lie
Not in the real world.

money laundering funds sent to Ukraine (i.e. FTX, more to come on that)
More pure fantasy, but no doubt more imaginative fabrications to come.

You batting average is very, very poor, though you have big league false memes galore.

a-1670630025 Dec 09, 2022 03:53 PM
Liking is Believing

3:41 - In other words, paranoia is a real thing, at least for you.

Voice of Reason Dec 09, 2022 03:41 PM
Liking is Believing

Epstien Island visitors, Trump colluding with Russian's was a manufactured Dem hoax, Wuhan lab leak theory, covid vaccines don't prevent infection, eventually everyone will get covid, covid deaths/hosp. patients overstated, Twitter doesn't shadow ban, Hunter Biden laptop is real, Ashly Biden's diary is real, Antifa is a thing, Democrats communicated with Big Tech to censor political rivals, climate apocalypse is a lie, social credit system, money laundering funds sent to Ukraine (i.e. FTX, more to come on that), government's been monitoring UFO's for year, government illegally spying on US citizens in the US,

Alexblue Dec 09, 2022 01:52 PM
Liking is Believing


Which conspiracy theories? Democrats worshipping Satan and eating babies? "Chemtrails"? Can I get a list of your greatest hits?

Voice of Reason Dec 09, 2022 01:36 PM
Liking is Believing

Weird how those "conspiracy theories" keep coming true....

SBsurferlife Dec 09, 2022 12:26 PM
Liking is Believing

There are more uneducated voters in the Republican Party.

"Democrats control 77% of the U.S.'s most highly educated Congressional districts... while Republicans control 64% of districts where the fewest people went to college."

And there's one party with members who believe in asinine conspiracy theories and even elected people to office who promote those theories.

a-1670616891 Dec 09, 2022 12:14 PM
Liking is Believing

That's tongue in cheek, right? It's the cons that have been denigrating education and endorsing ignorance for decades.

Alexblue Dec 09, 2022 10:05 AM
Liking is Believing

People are just so fantastically stupid. Surface thinking abounds.

chico berkeley Dec 09, 2022 09:46 AM
Liking is Believing

This should be required reading for everyone on this site.
Oh, it's longer than 280 characters so ,never mind.

sacjon Dec 09, 2022 09:36 AM
Liking is Believing

Not surprising, given the level of education in this country. The masses will believe anything they read, especially if it's been retweeted by someone prominent. Part of high school curriculum should be to learn how to fact check everything you see online.

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