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How and why a Fake News story becomes viral

This is why only some Fake News stories work over time

The Web already swarms with Fake News and hoaxes of all kind, with some of them “dying” early. Others, on the contrary, keep circulating even when they have been exposed by facts and authoritative sources. Why? There are different factors involved, but they are all founded on a very clear one: the “cycle”. A Fake News story circulating on the social media, striking the audience’s most sensible notes, generates more reactions than other stories on less sensitive subjects. Even if they are better stories, or if they come from verified publications or sources. Search engines’ algorithms detect this attention, moving that news up in the ranks, and giving it more visibility. The audience is influenced mostly by the leading news stories, which are the ones it usually browses first. Hence, its responsiveness to some subjects grows. This leads the audience to focus more on contents about those subjects, thus restarting the cycle.

Hoaxes on the Internet become viral thanks to the word-of-mouth, a phenomenon born long before the Web

This concept, which manages to make Fake News viral, in particular on the social media, is founded on the word-of-mouth, a well-oiled mechanism born long before the Web. This concept was once related to conspiracy theories and urban legends. Think of the many stories about baby alligators dumped in the sewers, grown to become monsters wandering underground. Thanks to globalization, the Web has amplified hoaxes, becoming a perfect vector for them. On the other hand, though, the Internet also acted as a filter for cyber hoaxes. The most glaring among them ended up “dead”. In contrast, Fake News stories based on facts or mixing plausibility with fabrication gained strength. This factor, combined with the cycle, determines the value of Fake News stories for those who put them on the Web. Therefore ensuring that authoritative publications disseminate them, amplifying their propaganda.

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