Digital tribalism: The real story about fake news

Date Posted: May 31, 2019 Last Modified: May 31, 2019
Digital Tribalism – The Real Story About Fake News Photo: Gerd Altmann, Pixabay

This paper seeks to explore the phenomenon of 'fake news' in light of the increasing concern of the lack of truth in the online information ecosystem especially from the Alt-right. The researchers repeatedly find a connection between identity and truth and say the people who spread misinformation are not stupid or uneducated but spread these messages because it signals membership to their specific group. The term 'tribal epistemology' by David Roberts is used to describe these new social structures with similar tribal dynamic dynamics. The authors finds such "digital tribalism" at the heart of many successful Alt-Right and anti-liberal movements across the world since 2016. 

  • Right-wing "fake news' on Twitter is disseminated by a distinct group separated from the rest of the network. They are immune to fake news correction even if exposed to them. Right-wing members tend to hold on to their beliefs strongly.
  • The tribalistic tendencies found among the right equally apply to the left. However, there us no evidence for this assertion and requires further research.
  • Filter bubbles are not to be blamed for a lack of corrections by the right. They work more strongly against the spread of fake news than against corrections.
  • The researchers believe we are dealing with the socio-psychological phenomenon of a "motivated public sphere" which they refer to as "digital tribalism".