Science vs. Facebook algorithm to thwart disinformation

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Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen several scientists posting on social networks in favor or against the vaccine, the mask, health measures, etc. Recently, the editor of the renowned journal Science, Holden Thorp, implored the scientific community to try to beat Facebook at its own game: to play on the algorithms by bringing out star researchers, as do so well the " anti-science ”.  

Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen several scientists posting on social networks in favor or against the vaccine, the mask, health measures, etc. Lately, the editor-in-chief of the renowned journal Science, Holden Thorp implored the scientific community to try to beat Facebook at its own game: playing on algorithms by bringing out star researchers, as the "anti-science" does so well.  

“Since World War II, scientists have clung to the idea that if they stay objective and report the science, the rest of the world will follow. It's time to recognize that this old idea is naïve. "

Holden Thorp, editor-in-chief of the journal Science, in Press

What is an algorithm? According to the OQLF, it is a "sequence of operating rules executed on data and which allow a result to be obtained". Concretely, this is what means that two people having exactly the same list of friends on Facebook, for example, will be suggested different readings since the analysis of their online behavior will not give the same results. Thus, one can see an avalanche of photos of cats every day while the other receives a shower of anti-science articles… thus confirming his beliefs. 

The phenomenon of disinformation has been around much longer than we think. Indeed, the fact of circulating a news that one believes to be true, but which is not based on verified facts, has been common practice for years. How do you discern the true from the false? The activities proposed in this guide will allow students to practice doing so.

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