Spreading of fake news, competence, and learning: kinetic modeling and numerical approximation

 Jonathan Franceschi, Lorenzo Pareschi (28/9/2021 preprint arXiv:2109.14087)

The rise of social networks as the primary means of communication in almost every country in the world has simultaneously triggered an increase in the amount of fake news circulating online. This fact became particularly evident during the 2016 U.S. political elections and even more so with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several research studies have shown how the effects of fake news dissemination can be mitigated by promoting greater competence through lifelong learning and discussion communities, and generally rigorous training in the scientific method and broad interdisciplinary education. The urgent need for models that can describe the growing infodemic of fake news has been highlighted by the current pandemic.
The resulting slowdown in vaccination campaigns due to misinformation and generally the inability of individuals to discern the reliability of information is posing enormous risks to the governments of many countries. In this research using the tools of kinetic theory we describe the interaction between fake news spreading and competence of individuals through multi-population models in which fake news spreads analogously to an infectious disease with different impact depending on the level of competence of individuals. The level of competence, in particular, is subject to an evolutionary dynamic due to both social interactions between agents and external learning dynamics. The results show how the model is able to correctly describe the dynamics of diffusion of fake news and the important role of competence in their containment.