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Dunning-Kruger Effect: Facebook and Fake News

Dunning-Kruger Effect. You probably have come across this term a couple of times. Especially now that there has been a lot of discussion on the internet that shows people’s predicaments. Most of which would make you slap your hand on your face just because the so called “opinions”, which individuals claim they are rightly entitled to, are illogical. Nonetheless, correct them and you will be tagged as self-righteous and oppositional.

The Internet is getting swarmed by self-declared political analysts, watchdogs, and authorities who think that their voices are general truths and their intelligence superior.

Dunning-Kruger effect is what you call this cognitive bias that says people who are incompetent overrate themselves while people who are indeed intelligent think of themselves otherwise.

The Threat of the Dunning-Kruger Effect

Fake news are everywhere and as surprising as it may be, some individuals easily believe in them and worse, spread these fake news via social media. The effect is this: when too many users share a post, people tend to believe it as legitimate information. This is even without fact-checking if the websites these are posted in, especially the content, is valid.

Remarkably, people solicit comments and accept these contents as real. What is even more shocking is that these pages have disclaimers: “this is a satire news site” which is greatly overlooked. And when one even sees this and points this out, that person would be shamed.

It implies that readers today only look at what is biased towards their preconceived ideas as a fact and anything that deviates from it is sinful or conceited. They are not even close-minded. Simply, Dunning-Kruger effect says that no matter what happens, these “incompetent” individuals do not have the very cognitive abilities to understand that they are wrong. Thus, they incorrectly judge themselves as well as matters outside their circle.

Moreover, fake news websites thrive due to advertisements or as a form of financial support from huge companies taking advantage of these sites’ level of engagement.

Why is this scary? As the Dunning-Kruger effect explains it, the unskilled would continue to build made up pretenses that could collapse the actuality carried by the less confident but intelligent and legit professionals. Incorrect opinions would be accepted as “true” and everyone else would diverge from what is supposed to be done.

Fact-checking against Fake News

In order to reverse this, Facebook, the most popular social media platform to date, launched its fact-checking attempt. However, experts do not fully support this.

Why? Plainly because Facebook values advertising and looks into a page’s engagement regardless of content. Looking into social media data we have now, readers’ engagements to satire and illicit news sites are higher compared to those websites produced and managed by already established news agencies.

How would Facebook decide what is fake news and what not? Via number of votes from users. And who are these users? What are the criteria? That we do not know.

Consider the Facebook’s option for reporting a page. A page that has paid Facebook for advertisement and a page of real agencies with thousands of likes could easily be suspended if reported by anyone. This suspension happens even before Facebook actually screens the page’s content.

Facebook even gives predetermined justifications for such reports and why is this problematic? Remember how opposing views against those of active social media users are tagged as malicious? Even when proofs tell otherwise, a higher number of unskilled individuals can easily topple over what is correct. This is due to the skilled people’s tendency to always back down simply because they are tired of arguing since no amount of explanation can convince a closed mind.

Against Fake News and the Dunning-Kruger Effect

Most people accept this cycle — at least those who are highly active online. But how about the voices of rest of the world that prefers to stay offline? If ever they are greater in number, that could easily be masked.

Should we totally trust what online media tell us? We cannot give an absolute answer. If we want truth and progress, we must start doing ourselves a favor. There are tons of sources available online and offline. Check, verify, and assess. Don’t make it easy for fake news.

As they say, not everything on the internet is true. It always pays to give something the benefit of the doubt.

About Patricia Abrihan

Patricia has always been inspired by the witty yet innocent voice of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird that she believes that writing is able to revolutionize ideas of society. She is a former college instructor from the Philippines and is currently a freelance writer and blogger managing her portfolio. She is open to collaboration and also loves reading and watching movies.

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