DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Supporters of the far-right conspiracy theory group QAnon recently gathered in Dallas waiting for John F. Kennedy Jr. The son of the late president died in a plane crash in 1999. QAanon members thought JFK Jr. would be there to make an announcement that he is running alongside Donald Trump in the 2024 election. People who showed up thought it to be true.
But what about the people who actually push that sort of fake news on social media?
“They still kept on sharing misinformation despite these third-party fact-checker interventions and so on. So, I’d most likely suggest they don’t care about the veracity of the news,” said Hemant Kakkar, assistant professor of management and organizations at the Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
Kakkar and his team conducted a study to figure out what types of personalities are posting fake news and what their motivations are. In many cases, they don’t necessarily believe or even care if what they’re posting is true as long it creates chaos.
“They are not driven by clarity, whether the news is true or not, or whether the news is accurate or not. What was driving their behavior was this desire to create chaos. That was pretty shocking. I didn’t expect that to be the driver,” Kakkar said.
About 4,600 people participated in the study. Kakkar said conscientiousness plays a significant role.
Whether it’s pushing fake news like Bill Gates putting a microchip tracker in doses of the COVID-19 vaccine or instigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, Kakkar said the chaos often comes from people who no longer believe in long-standing institutions. The study also shows while far-right extremists are most likely to post such things, far-left liberals are also posting fake news.
“Our basic finding was, across studies, that not all conservatives share fake news. In fact, what we found was both liberals and conservatives share fake news to a certain degree,” he said.
So what about this effort by social media platforms to post disclaimers or filter out the lies? For the most part, Kakkar found it’s just not working.