“Deluge” of information makes it difficult for social media users to recognize true and false statements

Mark Zuckerberg argues that more information reaching more people enhances democracy. But, as the adage goes, quantity does not equal quality.

Source: Facebook Built Its Vision of Democracy on Bad Math | WIRED

The linked article says social media users are under a deluge of information overload – there is now so much information in our news feeds – much of it fake or false – that we are unable to distinguish between the real and the false.

This concept also applies to comments at the end of online newspaper articles where anyone can write what they want, even if untrue. To illustrate, our local paper had an item somewhat related to the topic of climate change. A commenter provided the (logical fallacy) argument that since sea levels were 400 feet lower 15,000 years ago, we had best be worried! That sounds like a compelling argument – until you learn of the context.

Most such logical fallacy comments are left “as is”, and can turn into a “factoid meme” which is actually false. No one offers a correction or context to the stated item.

Another commenter pointed out it was 26,500 years ago, not 15,000 years ago, when the sea was 400 feet lower. During that period, we had an Ice Age and much of Europe and North America was buried under massive ice sheets. When you see the context, you see that the first comment is an invalid argument. Yet many people may see only the first comment and may then pass that idea along to others via social media. Almost no one cross checks and verifies claims made on social media!

And how can we? We are inundated with false claims and logical fallacies through the fire hose of social media content. More information is not making us better informed – instead it is making us dumber.

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