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Reading: The COVID-19 misinformation crisis is just beginning, but there is hope

From The COVID-19 misinformation crisis is just beginning, but there is hope

Ars Technica reports on a paper on complex networks and resilience – in this case, the resilience of hate speech.

But there may be hope: researchers have developed a “map” of how distrust in health expertise spreads through social networks, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature. Such a map could help public health advocates better target their messaging efforts.

Neil Johnson is a physicist at George Washington University, where he heads the Complexity and Data Science initiative, specializing in combining “cross-disciplinary fundamental research with data science to attack complex real-world problems.” For instance, last year, the initiative published a study in Nature mapping how clusters of hate groups interconnect to spread narratives and attract new recruits. They found that the key to the resilience of online hate is that the networks spread across multiple social media platforms, countries, and languages.

We need resilience to keep our comm networks and supply networks up and running, so the tendencies the researchers spot are significant. But just as immediately, those trends of how hate speech and mis-information circulate is valuable to getting things under control on social networks.

“The analogy is no matter how much weed killer you place in a yard, the problem will come back, potentially more aggressively,” Johnson said at the time. “In the online world, all yards in the neighborhood are interconnected in a highly complex way—almost like wormholes. This is why individual social media platforms like Facebook need new analysis such as ours to figure out new approaches to push them ahead of the curve.”

Read the article in Nature

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