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Paris and Information Cascades

A depressing event took place earlier this month as terrorists attacked Paris. The violence that happened in Paris literally shook the world as the news spread online like wildfire especially in social media sites like Facebook. Many users of Facebook posted statuses voicing their concerns for Paris and used photo filters to display their profile pictures in the French flag colors to show that they stood with Paris against the attack in solidarity.

However, not all the uploaded posts involving Paris were true. Some rumors that were spread and reposted were false. For example, a “Muslim” man was photoshopped into a suicide bomb vest while holding a Quran. The man was actually Sikh so he was not Muslim, he lived in Canada far away from the Paris violence, and he was holding an iPad instead of a Quran. Another example is that people thought that the Eiffel Tower had gone dark in memory of the victims of the Paris attack, but the Eiffel Tower goes dark every night.

Overall, faulty posts containing wrong information or past statements have been circulating around social media with people reposting them even though the posts are not true. According to the article, the phenomenon was due to information cascades. We learned about information cascades and the effects of cascades in class earlier this month. An information cascade is caused when an individual makes a decision based on observations of others regardless of his or her own private information. It has the potential to occur when people make decisions sequentially with later people watching the actions of earlier people. It can be started very easily as seen in the examples above and it can be based on very little information and even be wrong. In the example with the Sikh man, people assumed the man was Muslim and a terrorist because he was wearing a turban. Those people shared the photoshopped post of the man because they saw the post and made a decision to do the same thing as the people who shared it despite their own personal information. Thereby, they caused an information cascade to occur that caused other people to also share the post.

I found it interesting how easily information cascades could be started online on social media sites like Facebook. I also found that the information cascades circulating misleading and false information was very detrimental. Nevertheless, it was very fascinating to see the principles of information cascades that were discussed in class in real life.

 

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2015/11/19/paris-and-the-trail-of-social-media-misinformation/

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