• Martin Gagnon

This Flu Season Beware of the Fake News Virus

The fight against fake news appears to be taking a page from the medical field. Researchers at the University of Stanford are “mapping the growth of fake news and targeted disinformation by utilizing models typically used to track infectious diseases, essentially treating the spread of fake news as a deadly strain of ebola.”

Elisabeth Pate-Cornell and Travis Trammell, two Stanford cyber-risk researchers, are mapping who has been exposed to fake news and then determining how many of those people are likely to believe and spread the disinformation based on certain traits. Using traits such as high levels of confirmation bias and age, researchers try to determine an “infection rate.” Those who are spreading the fake news are considered “infected.” Keeping with the infectious disease framework, those who have been infected would have to be “quarantined” from the disinformation to stop the exposure and slow down the spread of the disinformation.

While a real possibility, the efforts to use these models would surely require a multi-faceted approach. “In order to diminish disinformation, the United States will have to take an interdisciplinary approach, with researchers, psychologists, lawyers, government officials and private companies working together,” said Trammell.

So, this flu season if you feel as sick as dog it may not be the symptoms of a raging cold. Some researchers may say you are simply suffering from fake news.

Source: Meghan Sullivan, “Ahead of election, researchers use virus model to map the spread of fake news”, The Stanford Daily, November 11, 2019.


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