Research Seminar

David Sumpter: Reasons why we should NOT worry about fake news, echo chambers, filter bubbles and Cambridge Analytica

Date: 29 January 2020
Time: 10:00-12:00

David Sumpter, Professor of Applied Maths at Uppsala University


Much of the recent media reporting about social media has revolved around the potential dangers. Terms such as fake news, filter bubbles, echo chambers and politically targeted advertising have given the impression that the Internet is dominated by problematic forms of communication. In summer 2017, after the election of Donald Trump, an event associated with the Cambridge Analytica scandal and fake news, I reviewed the available academic literature on these dangers. I also conducted my own analysis of the algorithms used by Google, Facebook and Twitter at that time. I found very little academic evidence to support the uproar about  these dangers and several high-quality studies which suggested the dangers were overblown. I discuss these results and how we might take a more nuanced approach to the dangers of algorithms on social media.

This presentation is based on the speaker's book Outnumbered (2018), Bloomsbury Publishing.

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