Facebook reinforces the beliefs of users because they tend to seek out news and views that tally with their own opinions, according to a new study.
The social networking site creates an “echo chamber” in which a network of like-minded people share controversial theories, biased views and selective news, academics found.
This means that any bias held is simply repeated back to them unchallenged and accepted as fact.
The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analysed Facebook data about the topics people discussed on the social network in 2010 and 2014.
It concluded: “Users tend to aggregate in communities of interest, which causes reinforcement and fosters confirmation bias, segregation and polarisation.
“This comes at the expense of the quality of information and leads to proliferation of biased narratives fomented by unsubstantiated rumours, mistrust, and paranoia.”
The researchers, from several Italian institutions and Boston University in the US, found that once a piece of information was accepted as fact, it spread rapidly throughout that particular online “community of interest,” despite having no proven basis in science.