Sander van der Linden was working in his office at the University of Cambridge a few years ago when he received a strange phone call. A professor of social psychology and director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Laboratory, van der Linden is one of the world's leading researchers on how to combat the scourge of disinformation and misinformation . He receives requests all the time about his work from government agencies, media organizations, and civil-society groups. But the person who called that day was not a bureaucrat or a diplomat. It was a representative from L'Oréal, the multi-billion-dollar global beauty product company. L'Oréal had what it called a "scientific disinformation" problem related to some of its products. Could van der Linden help? At the heart of van der Linden's research is a theory: Our information crisis can and should be treated like a virus. Responding to fake stories or conspiracy theories after the fact is woefully insufficient, just as post-infection treatments don't compare to vaccines. Indeed, a growing body of social science suggests that fact-checks and debunkings do little to correct falsehoods after people have seen a piece of misinformation (the unintentional spread of misleading or false stories) or disinformation… Read full this story
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