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Lede: While political views differ, democracy depends upon a basic agreement about facts. Can technology help people sort truth from trash in social media?
Randy Atkins: One theory why people get swept up by false information is because of a motivation to believe and rationalize a political stance. But David Rand, a cognitive scientist at M-I-T, thinks it’s more likely simple inattention or mental laziness…and he sees this as a workable engineering challenge.
David Rand: The idea of getting people to think more seems more tractable than the idea of getting people to be less partisan.
Randy Atkins: He thinks most people can easily sort fact from fiction, if they just stop and think. Problem is lots of people speed through posts while relaxing…and news stories are interspersed with family and animal pictures.
David Rand: The question is how can you get people to still enjoy it but think more critically about the stuff that is important to think about?
Randy Atkins: So Rand is building elements into social media platforms that he hopes will trigger critical thinking and reflection about content…before people decide to believe or share it. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.
New York Times opinion piece “Why Do People Fall for Fake News” by David Rand and Gordon Pennycook