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The Information Cascade of Sexual Allegations

Unfortunately in this day and age, especially this year, sexual harassment allegations are something way too familiar. We see it on the news and social media happening everywhere from work settings to college campuses. Although it seems like the rate of sexual assault has dramatically increased, this number hasn’t changed as drastic as one may think. This is because the rate of sexual harassment was most likely always high while the amount of people who reported sexual harassment was and still is significantly low. This can be due to many reasons such as the victim getting blamed, getting fired, or further harassed. So why the sudden shift in people speaking out about sexual harassment? According to US managing editor, Gillian Tett from Financial Times, in “Trump and the ‘information cascade’ created a cultural reckoning” one reason to explain the phenomenon is Information Cascades. More specifically, the information cascades formed by social networks.


An Information cascade is a situation where each person makes a decision/choice based on the observations or choices of others while ignoring his own personal information (Investopedia). We learned about this concept in class when explaining the example of the two urns filled with a number of red and blue marbles. One urn has a majority of blue marbles while the other has a majority of red marbles and each student would have to guess which urn is which based off the marble they chose as well as other people guesses. This example showed that people started to guess the popular answers that they heard before them regardless of what marble they chose. This same concept can be exemplified in the situation with sexual harassment too. Decades ago if women was to claim she was sexually harassed there was a very slow bureaucratic legal process and many months of research before it would get reported. Now, according to Tett, with the help of social networks, information can spread very rapidly beyond the control of lawyers and traditional authority figures. Isolated victims can suddenly congregate into a crowd to support each other. Also, people can repost or share someone’s story without needing to do anything other than clicking of a button. Thus, once a story is shared thousands of times it gets a perception that it is true then more people begin to share the story. Conclusive, due to this information cascade more victims feel comfortable speaking out.


One Response to “ The Information Cascade of Sexual Allegations ”

  • Julie Andrew

    Very well explained. Social platforms too are playing vital role. As citizens we must be very careful in judging the situation as sometimes the truth is not just what we see.

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