Article by Angie Basiouny: “People who read fake news online aren’t doomed to fall into a deep echo chamber where the only sound they hear is their own ideology, according to a revealing new study from Wharton.
Surprisingly, readers who regularly browse fake news stories served up by social media algorithms are more likely to diversify their news diet by seeking out mainstream sources. These well-rounded news junkies make up more than 97% of online readers, compared with the scant 2.8% who consume online fake news exclusively.
“We find that these echo chambers that people worry about are very shallow. This idea that the internet is creating an echo chamber is just not holding out to be true,” said Senthil Veeraraghavan, a Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions.
Veeraraghavan is co-author of the paper, “Does Fake News Create Echo Chambers?” It was also written by Ken Moon, Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions, and Jiding Zhang, an assistant operations management professor at New York University Shanghai who earned her doctorate at Wharton.
The study, which examined the browsing activity of nearly 31,000 households during 2017, offers empirical evidence that goes against popular beliefs about echo chambers. While echo chambers certainly are dark and dangerous places, they aren’t metaphorical black holes that suck in every person who reads an article about, say, Obama birtherism theory or conspiracies about COVID-19 vaccines. The study found that households exposed to fake news actually increase their exposure to mainstream news by 9.1%.
“We were surprised, although we were very aware going in that there was much that we did not know,” Moon said. “One thing we wanted to see is how much fake news is out there. How do we figure out what’s fake and what’s not, and who is producing the fake news and why? The economic structure of that matters from a business perspective.”…(More)”