In platforms we trust: misinformation on social networks in the presence of social mistrust

JIWP Number: 2202

Charlson, G.

Abstract

We examine the effect of social trust on a network in which agents communicate with each other and information sources, changing their opinion with some probability. Agents whose peers are more likely to spread misinformation are consequently less trusting than agents whose neighbours are more informed, and therefore change their views with less probability. When echo chambers are strong, weakening them results in there being more interaction between high and low social trust agents, increasing the spread of misinformation. When echo chambers are weak, however, weakening them further reduces the differences in social trust, decreasing the asymmetries in communication and hence the probability agents are misinformed. As a result of the non-linear relationship between the strength of echo chambers and the spread of misinformation, optimal interventions in network structure depend on why agents form links in the first place.

Classification JEL
D82
D83
D85
JIWP