Professor Tom Buchanan’s research project will explore why people spread disinformation on social media.

CREST-secuerity-threat-research
Credit: Copyright ©2019 R. Stevens / CREST (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) have recently announced five selected research projects to address some of the security threats facing the UK.

CREST, which was commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council, is funded by the UK’s security and intelligence agencies to deliver a world-class, interdisciplinary portfolio of activity that maximises the value of behavioural and social science research to understanding, mitigating and countering threats to national security. 

After a rigorous and independent review process, the successful projects were selected from more than 80 applications. Tom Buchanan, Professor of Psychology, was selected to lead a project entitled ‘Why do people spread disinformation on social media?’ 

Individual social media users are key to the spread of disinformation online. By interacting with disinformation, they share it to their own social networks. This can greatly increase its reach and potential impact on society. Professor Buchanan’s study will aim at finding out the reasons for these actions and how the way a disinformation message is presented can influence our likelihood of sharing it.

Speaking about his work, Professor Tom Buchanan said: “Disinformation is false or manipulated information that is intended to mislead audiences for malicious purposes. It has always been part of the political and social landscape, but with the growth of social media its importance and influence has taken on a new dimension. 

“Attempts to manipulate political processes through disinformation, and more generally undermine civil society, are being uncovered on an ongoing basis. In the UK, a parliamentary inquiry has characterised disinformation as a threat to our democracy. To tackle the problem, it's important to find out more about the processes underlying how this material spreads. I'm very pleased to be able to contribute to that work.”

Read more about Professor Tom Buchanan’s project.

Find out more about the Department of Psychology at the University of Westminster.

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