Social media can be a democratizing force by allowing voices to be heard that would otherwise be ignored or suppressed, but it also enables the spread of rumors, conspiracy theories and fake news. When we share content on sites like Facebook and Twitter, it can go viral and spread quickly to hundreds, thousands, even millions of people. The consequences of the viral spread of fake information online can quickly cause problems offline. For example, tweets spreading rumors that the city zoo’s tiger was lose and roaming the streets of London lead to a brief panic in 2012, and an entirely fabricated conspiracy theory linking a politician to a human trafficking ring spread virally and lead a man to fire shots into a pizza joint in Washington D.C. in 2016.
How do viral events work? What makes some content go viral while other content stays stubbornly obscure? Is viral fake news different from viral factual news? In this talk, Dr. Hemsley will answer these questions by providing insight into the inner works of what goes viral and how. He will also discuss why fake political news is very likely more prone to spread than other kinds of news.
Presenter: Jeff Hemsley
Jeff Hemsley is an Assistant Professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Washington’s Information School. His research is about understanding information diffusion, particularly in the context of politics, in social media. He is co-author of the book Going Viral (Polity Press, 2013 and winner of ASIS&T Best Science Books of 2014 Information award and selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2014), which explains what virality is, how it works technologically and socially, and draws out the implications of this process for social change.
Made possible in part by a state grant secured by Senator John A. DeFrancisco.