Rumors and Fake News Are Societies Worst Adversaries When Maintaining Rational Consensus

Feb 18, 2020

[Beijing, February 18, 2020] Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB) Professor of Accounting and Finance Liu Jing recently published an article relating to the COVID-19 outbreak, the context for rumours to spread and the ability for society to rationally access and reach a consensus on facts.

Here are a few of his key points:

  • A society’s method of assessment is different to that of an individual’s. A consensus is close to impossible to reach when it requires each individual in society to know the thoughts of each and every other individual. Therefore, due to the uncertainties in a consensus, it is not easy for society to be rational.
  • To ensure that a consensus is rational, society needs to check and balance the platforms on which experts debate openly and freely. The more effective these platforms are, the more rational society’s assessment will be. This allows for a more efficient society where the chances of making severe errors are lowered.
  • The extent of the spread of a rumour depends on its reliability, the audiences’ discernment, and the credibility of governments and authorities. People can often see through a simple rumour, but it is harder to do so when facing a complicated one. When rumours spread, governments and authorities with credibility can easily refute them. But if governments lack credibility, they may resort to measures such as cutting off routes of information communication to curb the spread.
  • In the context of rumours, social media platforms allow for exponential dissemination. Motivated by economic advantage, social media platforms are not focused on stopping rumours from spreading as rumours attract users and traffic, the exact objective these platforms drive for. Social media platforms should embrace a sense of responsibility to help curb the production and spread of rumours.

To read the full article in Chinese, visit:
http://www.ckgsb.edu.cn/faculty/article/detail/157/5795

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