How social media platforms aid misinformation spread.

Social media platforms are structured in a way that aids misinformation spread.


8/9/20231 min read

Just so you know-

  • Your habitual use of social media causes you to spread misinformation

  • Social media platforms are structured to aid misinformation spread.

Leg dig in!

Many researchers have looked at information-processing models of humans, information-seeking models, confirmation bias and media literacy when it comes to misinformation spread. However, a study by a team of researchers from the University of Southern California School of Business showed that the habits of social media users and the structure of the social media sites themselves aid the spread of misinformation. The study involved 2,476 Facebook active users, covering an age range from 18 to 89.

Social media rewards users for habitually sharing information. This reward-based systems on social media enable users to form the habit of sharing information that gets recognition from others. Users with this habit actively engage in information sharing (any sharing with likes, comments, reposts, etc) without actively considering whether the information spread is accurate or misleading. For example, the result from a recent study from Gizem Ceylan, a postdoctoral scholar at Yale SOM, shows that habitual Facebook users shared more headlines, and also shared a roughly equal percentage of true (43%) and false (38%) ones (Read about it here).

Social media platforms reward posting with engagement in the form of likes, comments, and re-shares. The algorithms prioritize engagement when selecting which posts users see in their news feeds. This leads users to form habits of sharing information that attracts others' attention so they can also experience the feel-good rush of dopamine, thereby also causing an increase in the amount of misinformation they share.

Social media can incentivize users as a way to encourage them to build information-sharing habits. A possible way is for social media platforms to actively moderate information and restructure their reward structure to encourage sharing of true over false information and limit misinformation spread.

To read the full research paper, click here


Ceylan, G., Anderson, I. A., & Wood, W. (2023). Sharing of misinformation is habitual, not just lazy or biased. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120(4), e2216614120.

Madrid, P. (2023, January 17). USC study reveals the key reason why fake news spreads on social media. USC News. Retrieved from