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33 MIN READ TIME

How Science Will Explain and Fix Fake News

THE INSTANT, GLOBAL SPREAD OF INFORMATION through the Internet clearly benefits us as individuals and as a civilization. But the Internet can also be wielded to spread disinformation, a formidable downside of the technology that we’ve recently labeled “fake news.” Simple web publishing tools enable anyone to fabricate stories that appear identical to legitimate journalism, which prompts social media users—both human and robotic—to share them as easily as real news. Fake news, crafted to exploit us, wreaks havoc on our health, finances and politics.

Reality constrains the quantity of real news stories, but our boundless imaginations unleash a torrent of fake stories that now overwhelm our news feeds. Not only does fake news deceive us, it undermines our trust in legitimate news sources. This is the real catastrophe and, many believe, the objective of Russia’s fake news campaign leading up to the 2016 U.S. elections. Fake news threatens the institution of democracy itself, because an uninformed public cannot make sound governance decisions.

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Skeptic
24.1
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