In July, residents of a rural Indian town saw rumors of child kidnappers on WhatsApp. Then they beat five strangers to death.
A series of damning posts on Facebook has stoked longstanding ethnic tensions in Sri Lanka, setting off a wave of violence largely directed at Muslims. How are false rumors on social media fueling real-world attacks?
On today’s episode:
• Fraudulent claims of a Muslim plot to wipe out Sri Lanka’s Buddhist majority, widely circulated on Facebook and WhatsApp, have led to attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned homes and shops in the country.
• Facebook’s algorithm-driven news feed promotes whatever content draws the most engagement — which tend to be the posts that provoke negative, primal emotions like fear and anger. The platform has allowed misinformation to run rampant in countries with weak institutions and a history of deep social distrust.
In the conservative media, we conditioned people not to trust facts or mainstream news outlets.