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Implications of Facebook’s Filtering Fake News Stories

Source: https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2016/12/economics-explainer-using-fake-news/

Clare Milliken explained how Facebook’s action on filtering fake news stories can be explained by game theory. Originally, there were two players: the person or group fabricating news stories and the readers who were not always able to discern whether a story is fake or not. However, after Facebook, online media for news stories, tried its best to filter the fake ones and became the third player, two effects occur. First, the reader is more likely to believe the news that appears in their feed, because they assume they would less likely see fake news. Second, the person or group making fake news have a “strategic incentive” to spread them on Facebook, because they know that the readers believe the news even more than they did previously and the fake news are less likely to be discovered as frauds. Therefore, it is not obvious to see whether filtering news is a good idea.

This is a very interesting scenario in the perspective of game theory. While the dominant strategy for Facebook is to filter out the fake news for the readers, the fabricators tend to make the fake news more believable and spread them on Facebook. Sitting in the middle are the naïve readers, who have little idea of how they news feeds they see on Facebook get through the tug of war to appear on their screen. Were Facebook not to filter out the fake news, the readers would not read any more fake news. So, does technology make our lives better? I guess that really depends on how “good” the technology is and if the technology yields more “good” than “bad”.

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