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How Information Cascades in Social Media are leading to ‘Misinformation’

Social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, is a platform for people expressing all sorts of emotions: grief, anger, joy etc. Recently, with the Paris attacks, both Facebook and Twitter were heavily used as mediums to sympathize with Paris and provide support and help in any way possible, but it was also, unfortunately, a source of misinformation. One rumor that spread was a photoshopped picture of a Sikh man wearing a suicide bomb vest and holding up a Quran. In reality however, he was holding an iPad. This picture was shared by thousands of users and circulated around very quickly. What made people share this and believe it was true?

The article discusses the cause; the misinformation is spread around due to an information cascade; they describe an information cascade as, ‘It’s when an observer sees something and does the exact same thing despite one’s own beliefs or other private information to the contrary.” The article also discusses the idea that we tend to put more trust in the first piece of information we get. Additionally, some people believed in the photoshopped picture because it may have been aligned with the popular misconception that men who wear turbans are terrorists.

Although many information cascades on social media are actually not necessarily bad, we need to be more careful about what we read and decide to share, as some of these cascades could lead to putting someones life in threat. Therefore, we need to be aware that not all information on the internet is true and we need to check the sources before responding or reacting to a piece of information.




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