How does disinformation spread online? We propose a psychological process model whereby disinformation triggers especially high levels of moral outrage, which facilitates its spread via two mechanisms: engagement-driven newsfeed prioritization, and “mindless” re-sharing behavior. Disinformation is designed to propagate, and previous work has shown moral emotions are highly contagious in online settings. High levels of user engagement with moral content may then prioritize that content in users’ newsfeeds. Moreover, intermittent social reinforcement of outrage expressions (through “likes” and “shares”) has the potential to transform initially deliberative expressions of outrage into “mindless” habitual re-sharing of disinformation. We will test our model’s predictions on data from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Finding empirical support for our model has potential to inform the development of practical solutions for detecting disinformation and preventing its spread.
Assistant Professor of Psychology, Yale University
Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale University
Research Engineer, University of Paris-Est
Assistant Professor of Law, St. John’s University
Research Associate, Yale University