Some people are more susceptible to conspiracy theories than others, say computational social scientists who have studied how false ideas jump the “credulity barrier” on Facebook.
During the Italian elections last year, a post appeared on Facebook that rapidly became viral. The post’s title was this: “Italian Senate voted and accepted (257 in favor and 165 abstentions) a law proposed by Senator Cirenga to provide policy makers with €134 billion Euros to find jobs in the event of electoral defeat”.
The post was created on Facebook page known for its satirical content and designed to parody Italian politics. It contains at least four false statements: the senator involved is fictitious, the total number of votes is higher than is possible in Italian politics, the amount of money involved is more than 10% of Italian GDP and the law itself is an invention.
The parody struck a chord with disenchanted voters who shared it some 35,000 times in less than a month. Then things quickly became strange.