It doesn’t matter what political party you may belong to. According to recent research published by the American Psychological Association (APA), both liberal and conservative Americans actually share fake news to avoid being ostracized in social circles.
Matthew Asher Lawson, the study’s lead researcher, detailed how social pressure and conformity are significant motivators in the circulation of fake news.
“If someone in your online tribe is sharing fake news, then you feel pressure to share it as well, even if you don’t know whether it’s false or true,” Lawson said.
And this spread of misinformation only fuels the political polarization fire, creating a damaging cyclic effect.
Still, while the buzzword “fake news” has received a lot of air time on national news outlets, the proliferation of such misinformation is not always rooted in a call to action or sinister motives.
In fact, the researchers actually started studying this topic after realizing that people within their own networks on social media were sharing fake news. And the spread seemed to be without ideological purpose or malicious intent.
“Political ideology alone doesn’t explain people’s tendency to share fake news within their social groups. There are many factors at play, including the very basic desire to fit in and not be excluded,” Lawson explained.
One experiment conducted by the team analyzed the political ideology and tweets of over 50,000 Twitter user pairs in the United States. These tweets included the sharing of hyper-partisan or fake news from August 2020 to December 2020.
To determine political ideology, a network-based algorithm– that examines the types of Twitter accounts that users follow– was used.