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

In 2017, soon after then Ukrainian member of parliament Svitlana Zalishchuk gave a speech to the United Nations on the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict on women, a fake tweet began to circulate on social media claiming that she had promised to run naked through the streets of Kiev if Russia-backed separatists won a critical […]

Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, spoke with CNN’s Brian Stelter on Sunday to explain the ultimate goal of President Donald Trump’s false accusations of a rigged and stolen election. Rauch was asked by Stelter if the issue is Trump is simply trapped in the delusion that he actually beat President-elect Joe […]

Memes, often in the form of humorous images and videos, are a major part of how people communicate on the internet, but they can also be used to spread disinformation. We’ve been looking at how these memes can present false and misleading information about Covid-19 vaccines, feeding into concerns about their efficacy or safety. […] […]

Less than a week after Election Day, a spreadsheet titled “Battling Asian American Misinformation” began circulating in progressive Asian American social media circles, primarily among those of Vietnamese and Chinese descent. The most popular YouTube channels flagged on the spreadsheet accumulated hundreds of thousands of subscribers, in which pundits discussed misleading claims about election fraud, […]

There’s been a lot of debate recently about “Facebook’s Top 10,” a Twitter account that lists “the top-performing link posts by U.S. Facebook pages in the last 24 hours,” managed by The New York Times’ Kevin Roose. Given that conservative pages tend to dominate the results, the lists have been used to argue that Facebook […]

Featured Scholars

Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and the Department of Sociology (by courtesy), University of Texas at Austin
Harvard Law School, Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society
Robertson Professor of Media Studies and Director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia
Executive Director of First Draft News