SCIENCE AND CONSPIRACY

The large availability of user provided contents on online social media facilitates people aggregation around shared beliefs, interests, worldviews and narratives. In spite of the enthusiastic rhetoric about the so called collective intelligence unsubstantiated rumors and conspiracy theories—e.g., chemtrails, reptilians or the Illuminati—are pervasive in online social networks (OSN). In this work we study, on a sample of 1.2 million of individuals, how information related to very distinct narratives—i.e. main stream scientific and conspiracy news—are consumed and shape communities on Facebook. Our results show that polarized communities emerge around distinct types of contents and usual consumers of conspiracy news result to be more focused and self-contained on their specific contents. To test potential biases induced by the continued exposure to unsubstantiated rumors on users’ content selection, we conclude our analysis measuring how users respond to 4,709 troll information—i.e. parodistic and sarcastic imitation of conspiracy theories. We find that 77.92% of likes and 80.86% of comments are from users usually interacting with conspiracy stories.

 

Posts on which at least a polarized member of each the two communities has commented. The number of posts is 7751 (1991 from scientific news and 5760 from alternative news.

Consumers of conspiracy news are more self-­‐contained within the limit of their community. Conversely, usual consumers of scientific news are more likely to comment on conspiracy pages.

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