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News | Jan. 11, 2022

Parents at Risk: Minerva-funded researchers reveal hidden social media machinery that has allowed misinformation to thrive among mainstream users such as parents

By Neil Johnson

In the recent study, “How Social Media Machinery Pulled Mainstream Parenting Communities Closer to Extremes and their Misinformation during COVID-19”, Minerva-funded researchers show how mainstream parenting communities on Facebook have been subject to a powerful, two-pronged misinformation machinery during the pandemic, that has pulled them closer to extreme communities and their misinformation. The first prong involves a strengthening of the bond between mainstream parenting communities and pre-Covid conspiracy theory communities that promote misinformation about climate change, fluoride, chemtrails and 5G. Alternative health communities have acted as the critical conduits. The second prong features an adjacent core of tightly bonded, yet largely under-the-radar, anti-vaccination communities that continually supplied Covid-19 and vaccine misinformation to the mainstream parenting communities. Their findings show why Facebook’s own efforts to post reliable information about vaccines and Covid-19 have not been efficient; why targeting the largest communities does not work; and how this machinery could generate new pieces of misinformation perpetually. They provide a simple yet exactly solvable mathematical theory for the system’s dynamics. It predicts a new strategy for controlling mainstream community tipping points. Their conclusions can be applicable to any social media platform with in-built community features, and open up a new engineering approach to addressing online misinformation and other harms at scale.

Read the full article “How Social Media Machinery Pulled Mainstream Parenting Communities Closer to Extremes and their Misinformation during COVID-19” -

To learn more:
Dr. Neil Johnson will be featured on a live TV discussion on Fox 5 DC-WTTG’s morning show on January 12, 2022 at 7:48am EST -
“Machine Learning Language Models: Achilles Heel for Social Media Platforms and a Possible Solution”-
“Online Parenting Communities Pulled Closer to Extreme Groups” -
“Facebook Parenting Flame Wars Go Nuclear with COVID Disinfo” -