Social media are pervaded by unsubstantiated or untruthful rumors, that contribute to the alarming phenomenon of misinformation. The widespread pres- ence of a heterogeneous mass of information sources may affect the mechanisms behind the formation of public opinion. Such a scenario is a florid environment for digital wildfires when combined with functional illiteracy, information overload, and confirmation bias. In this essay, we focus on a collection of works aiming at providing quantitative evidence about the cognitive determinants behind misinfor- mation and rumor spreading. We account for users’ behavior with respect to two distinct narratives: a) conspiracy and b) scientific information sources. In particular, we analyze Facebook data on a time span of five years in both the Italian and the US context, and measure users’ response to i) information consistent with one’s narra- tive, ii) troll contents, and iii) dissenting information e.g., debunking attempts. Our findings suggest that users tend to a) join polarized communities sharing a common narrative (echo chambers), b) acquire information confirming their beliefs (confirmation bias) even if containing false claims, and c) ignore dissenting information.
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