How Misinformation Spreads

Among the more worrisome aspects of dis- and misinformation in the digital age are the number of people it can reach in a short time, and the persistent recurrence of its narratives in online spaces. What facilitates its spread on social media? How do traditional media amplify disinformation? This collection addresses scholarship on network effects and individual behaviors in spreading misinformation. 

Live Research Review

What are the factors that cause misinformation to spread? To answer this question, researchers have focused on two broad areas. One is the social and psychological characteristics of audience members who decide what to consume and share. Another is the social media networks themselves, and the technologies that encourage and discourage user behaviors.

Teaching & Learning

Explore course modules, handouts, teaching tools and syllabi about dis- and misinformation.

Latest News on How Misinformation Spreads

The exponential increase in demand for and dissemination of information about COVID‐19 means the pandemic has been accompanied by an ‘infodemic’. This overabundance of accurate and inaccurate information is not limited to scientific or policy publications but threatens to overwhelm news and social media outlets. As noted by Eysenbach, the price of freedom of speech […]

On the night after the November 3 election, hundreds of supporters of Donald Trump filled the parking lot of an election center in Arizona’s Maricopa County, where officials were still counting ballots. Although most networks had yet to call the state for Joe Biden, Fox News had declared him the projected winner shortly before midnight […]

Propaganda has a history and so does research on it. In other words, the mechanisms and methods through which media scholars have sought to understand propaganda—or misinformation, or disinformation, or fake news, or whatever you would like to call it—are themselves historically embedded and carry with them underlying notions of power and causality. To summarize […]

Since the 2016 US presidential election, the deliberate spread of misinformation online, and on social media in particular, has generated extraordinary concern, in large part because of its potential effects on public opinion, political polarization, and ultimately democratic decision making. Recently, however, a handful of papers have argued that both the prevalence and consumption of […]

In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic created an urgent demand, not just for scientific information and advice, but also for policy proposals that helped curb the spread of the virus while minimizing economic and other collateral societal effects. The research response has been unprecedented. After just 1 year, PubMed returns more than 100,000 publications, 10 […]

Featured Scholars

Harvard Law School, Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society
Executive Director of First Draft News