Misinformation

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Misinformation includes a broad range of issues, including fabricated data, anecdotal evidence, cherry-picked facts, misleading statistics, absence of contextualization, lack of detailed analysis, overconfidence in a theory, ignoring scientific consensus and misunderstandings.

HoangEF-21 stresses that it should not be confused with fake news or false information, as factual information can easily count as misinformation if it is cherry-picked to mislead. Misinformation should also be distinguished from disinformation, especially organized disinformation, which results from an important active effort from the information source.

Tournesol🌻 aims to combat misinformation by asking contributors to rate how reliable and not misleading contents are.

Why this matters

Antivax JohnsonVRLG+20.

Climate change Allgaier-19.

Radicalization RibeiroOWAN-19.

How facts and statistics can mislead

Anecdotes and isolated facts should update our beliefs. However, they should usually lead to only small updates, especially compared to statistical analyses of large amounts of anecdotes and facts.

Be wary, however, of the selection bias, sometimes also known as the survivorship bias EddieWoo-20 2veritasium-16.

Perhaps most importantly, uncontrolled observational data are systematically vulnerable to Simpon's paradox Ted-Ed-16 minutephysics-17.

Even statistical analyses of controlled data, especially using null hypothesis statistical tests, may be unreliable Veritasium-16 AmhreinGM-19 WassersteinSL-19 Stegenga-18.

Finally, visual representations of statistical data can also be deeply misleading ZachStar-19.

Challenges to combat misinformation

One major challenge in combatting misinformation is that consumers are often subject to motivated reasoning KahanPDS-17.

Brandolini's law Williamson-16.

Attention to recent news over global trends RoslingRR-18.

Clickbaits Veritasium-19.

Auditing misinformation

HusseinJM-20 and FaddoulCF-20 audit misinformation on YouTube.

Aral-20 provide a very complete literature survey on the research on misinformation. He also argues that privacy regulations and concerns hinder this line of research, as companies can argue more easily that sharing their data violates their privacy policy.

How to solve misinformation

Systematically recommend higher-quality information content Hoang-20.

Increase science and health literacy, e.g. Bayes theorem 3Blue1Brown-19.

Encourage epistemic hygiene Galef-19.