By David Rand, Gordon Pennycook
Fake news and misinformation have been a persistent concern ever since the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Despite increased awareness and (apparent) concern from social media companies, the problem has not seemed to dissipate. For example, false content about COVID-19 has proliferated, which has likely had an impact on vaccination intentions, and misinformation about the 2020 presidential election almost certainly played a key role in the storming of Capitol Hill on January 6.
It’s tempting to conclude that we’re in a “post-truth” world where people are either unable to distinguish fact from fiction or are willfully ignorant and purposefully share falsehoods. This is not an idle curiosity. If true, our democracies are in very big trouble, and perhaps the only option we have is accept (and even beg for) strict censorship of falsehood by social media companies.