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Thomas Jefferson often argued that an educated public was crucial for the survival of self-government. We now live in an age in which education takes place mostly through new platforms. Social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on – are the main mechanisms by which people receive and share facts, ideas and opinions. But what if these new technologies encourage misinformation, rumors and lies? In a comprehensive new study of Facebook – analyzing posts made between 2010 and 2014 – a group of scholars found that people mainly share information that confirms their prejudices, paying little attention to facts and veracity. A few ultra-right-wing websites reprinted the story as fact.In my own experience, the conversation on Facebook is somewhat more civil, because people generally have to reveal their actual identities. But on Twitter and in other places – the comments section of the Washington Post – people can be anonymous or have pseudonyms.
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