The internet is a massive repository of information, from the profound to the mundane. Far too much stuff for a single human to handle, so we prefer to get our facts chosen for us, by newspapers, experts or friends. Increasingly these facts are supplied via social media, such as twitter or Facebook.
Whilst we carefully choose the people we follow and tend to imbue their updates with a degree of authority, we inevitably find ourselves coming across Clickbait stories purely created to ‘drive traffic’.
Often these snippets of information are passed, uncritically, across the network, because they are entertaining, or provocative, or (more dangerously) support our world view. But this process of passing facts around is open to abuse, where ‘facts’ are fabricated, and uncritically passed on.
The legitimacy of information is dependent on the trustworthiness of the source, but often this is unclear, and often overpowered by a compelling image.
I created @factbot1 as an experiment in manipulating the information space of social media. It algorithmically generates ‘facts’ and marries them with a suitable image and posts them on twitter every 4 hours.
Many of these ‘facts’ are patently absurd:
Though some are borderline believable, and therefore operate an interesting space of uncited plausibility:
There is a battle between the ‘shareability’ of information and it’s ‘truth’ – we need to engage our critical faculties alongside our desire to be ‘liked’ and our general addiction to the internet
Of course, telling lies on the internet is as old as the internet itself, yet it’s astonishing how often we see urban legends doing the rounds, as if no one had even heard of snopes.com. The image is a particularly pernicious (and therefore fascinating) tool for making a convincing lie, a picture being worth ‘a thousand words’ and all…
So please Follow @factbot1 on twitter, and if you see it post a fact you like the sound of, please help my experiment by passing it on.
UPDATE I’ve written some more about @factbot1 over at Imperica.