Monday, February 26, 2018

Are Conservatives More Gullible Than Liberals?

A recently released study from researchers at the University of Southern California found that, during the 2016 Presidential election, conservatives were about 31 times more likely to retweet Russian trolls than liberals.  See  Thus, Russian tweets favoring Donald Trump were far more likely to be amplified by retweeting than Russian tweets favor Hillary Clinton.  Conservatives, the data shows, were more likely to be taken in by Russian fake news than liberals.

It's unclear why.  Perhaps conservatives are more likely to be alarmed by the fear-inducing messages that the trolls tended to send.  Or, liberals may tend to think more critically of what they read before accepting it.  Perhaps both tendencies are factors, or maybe something else is operative.  Whatever the case, anyone who participates in social media (i.e., all two billion or so of you) need to be cautious about accepting what you read.  Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social media websites don't ensure you're reading the truth or anything even remotely close to the truth.  They're starting to understand that acting as conduits for messages, however false, isn't a great business strategy because people will eventually tire of being fed falsehoods.  And social media today is way too heavily laden with falsehoods.  People will eventually go to other websites that more rigorously screen the information they display.  Traditional news services may win in the end.

 By all indications, the measures being taken by Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social media websites to combat fake news are inadequate.  Russian bots flooded Twitter with pro-gun messages after the recent shootings at Marjorie Douglas Stoneham High School in Broward County, Florida.  See  No doubt they tried similar measures in other social media sites.  Don't rely on social media for the truth.  Be cautious.  Be skeptical.  You won't win a political debate by pushing messages from Russian trolls.  Truth will prevail in the end---and that means if you buy into messages from Russian trolls, you'll lose.

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