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Mar. 27 | Web of Lies - the Effect of Verification on the Spread of Misinformation in Social Networks (with Kinga Makovi)

  • 509 Knox Hall 606 West 122nd Street New York, NY, 10027 United States (map)

WHEN: Wednesday, March 27th, 2019, 12:00 - 1:30 p.m.

WHERE: Knox Hall 509, 606 W 122nd Street

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch and light refreshments will be provided. All are welcome!

Web of Lies - the Effect of Verification on the Spread of Misinformation in Social Networks

The spread of false information in social networks has caught a great deal of attention by both academic research and popular news. The dominant measure proposed to reduce the spread of false information is verification. If false information can be identified and tagged as false, many individuals will not disseminate it due to preferences for telling the truth. We test the effectivity of verification through a controlled online experiment in which we vary if/how participants verify the truthfulness of the information they receive in three conditions: no verification, exogenous verification (where truthfulness of information received from their peers is conveyed to them) and endogenous (where they can learn the truthfulness of information received from their peers by actively seeking it). Our results show that verification reduces the spread of false information, albeit moderately, and the effect is mainly observed when verification is endogenous. The main explanation for the moderate effectivity of verification is that individuals who lie hide behind their contacts in their social network which makes the attribution of the lie to a specific participant difficult. In additional treatments eliminating the possibility to hide in the network, we observe a significant decrease in the spread of false information. Our results suggest that to make verification effective we should tag the liar, not the lie.

Kinga Makovi received an MS in mathematical economics from Corvinus University of Budapest (2010). At her alma mater, she was one of the founding members of the Research Center for Educational and Network Studies. Her interest in social networks took her to Columbia University, where she earned her PhD in 2017. Her thesis, “Social Structural Avenues for Mobilization – the Case of British Abolition,” has been awarded a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant (2014), and she also received a de Karmen Fellowship (2015). Her dissertation research takes a structural approach to understanding popular mobilization for the abolition of the slave trade in Britain, applying tools from computational sociology and network analysis. Her past projects include the study of collective violence in the American South, as well as the determinants of fertility behaviors of parents with children with autism - appearing in Sociological Science and Social Forces. Her current projects include work on the social-structural determinant of early 20th century labor mobilization and the diffusion of practices in more contemporary contexts.

The Networks and Time Workshop Series is part of the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Lecture Series sponsored by INCITE (Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics).

Knox Hall is located on West 122nd Street between Broadway and Claremont (606 West 122nd Street, New York, NY 10027).

For inquiries about Networks and Time, please contact Berenike Schott ( or Eugene Grey (