“Fake news” — the kind of stories without even a kernel of truth, often made up by nefarious agents or cynical profiteers, appeared to play a major role in the 2016 presidential campaign.
There are no signs that these fictionalized articles, spread mostly on the internet via social media, are going away anytime soon. In fact, they’re a prominent feature of what some have dubbed the “post-truth era” ― a time when the general public (or even a certain leader of the free world) can’t seem to agree on basic facts, let alone reach consensus on tackling a problem.
Unsurprisingly, scientists have a major stake in making sure that facts ― obectively derived from the scientific method, reasoning, or other principles of enlightenment ― don’t lose their relevance to the public. Not only does their livelihood depend on experimentation and scientific discovery, but many of today’s disputed facts have widespread implications for health and safety.
Three new research papers tackle this problem, showing how to reach people with anti-scientific views, or how to help people sort fake news from real facts. Here’s what we can learn from each of them.