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Facebook conspiracy theorists fooled by even the most obvious anti-science trolling: study

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Anti-science conspiracy theorists are so credulous they can’t determine when they’re being purposefully duped, according to a new study.

A team of Italian and American researchers tested the social media biases feeding belief in conspiracy theories such as chemtrails, shape-shifting reptilian overlords, and the Illuminati, reported Motherboard.

The researchers found that adherents to conspiracy theories are highly receptive to claims that support their views and rarely engage with social media pages that question their beliefs.

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The ongoing measles outbreak linked to unvaccinated children has exposed one danger posed by hostility toward science, which is promoted in large part through social media.

The World Economic Forum last year identified “digital misinformation” alongside terrorism, cyber attacks, and global governmental failure as threats to modern society.

Social media allows this misinformation to be transmitted and amplified as users gather around shared beliefs, interests, and worldviews – whether or not factual evidence supports those belief systems.

The researchers examined social media patterns for 1.2 million Facebook users and found that nearly 92 percent of those who engage with Italian conspiracy theory pages interact almost exclusively with conspiracy theory pages.

The study also found that conspiracy theory posts are much more likely to be shared and liked by Facebook users.

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The researchers then tested the strength of these users’ biases by posting “troll information” – or sarcastic comments parodying anti-science views – on Facebook.

“These posts are clearly unsubstantiated claims, like the undisclosed news that infinite energy has been finally discovered, or that a new lamp made of actinides (e.g. plutonium and uranium) might solve problems of energy gathering with less impact on the environment, or that the chemical analysis revealed that chemtrails contains sildenafil citratum (the active ingredient of Viagra),” the researchers said.

They found that 78 percent of those who “liked” these 4,709 troll posts interacted primarily with conspiracy theory pages, as were 81 percent of those who commented on them.

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The researchers also noted that anti-conspiracy theorists often wasted “cognitive resources” pushing back against these unscientific “troll” claims, even when they were “satirical imitation of false claims.”

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Legal battles sparked by Trump’s behavior could affect how the US government works for generations — long after his impeachment trial is over

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After the last Senate staffer turns out the lights, major questions remain to be decided outside of the Capitol about the limits of presidential power, the willingness of courts to decide political questions and the ability of Congress to exercise effective oversight and hold a president accountable.

Here are three of those questions.

What are the limits of presidential power?

First, the aggressive exercise of executive power by Trump has put this power under court scrutiny.

Trump’s vow to “fight all the subpoenas” breaks from the traditional process – negotiation and accommodation – that previous presidents have used to resolve disputes between branches of the government.

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Secret recording features Trump falsely claiming that weed makes people ‘lose IQ points’

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President Donald Trump falsely claimed that marijuana makes people "lose IQ points" in a secret recording released by indicted former Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas.

Parnas released the recording, which captured more than one hour of conversation at a private donor dinner with Trump in 2018, to show that the president told him that he would fire then-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. But the recording, which was apparently captured by Parnas' indicted associate Igor Fruman, also featured Trump discussing Kim Jong Un's golf game, the European Union trying to "screw the United States," the 2016 election . . . and his views on marijuana.

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Experts explain how Trump team’s defense against the Bolton bombshell is blowing up in the president’s face

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Should former National Security Adviser John Bolton testify in President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial? This question has loomed over the entire proceedings, given Bolton's key role in the events in question, but it garnered heightened urgency when a report broke recently in the New York Times revealing that the ex-Trump aide would likely confirm the core of the Democrats' case against the president.

It still seems Republicans may succeed in quashing any demands for witnesses like Bolton. But as Trump and his attorney responded to the release of Bolton bombshell, they actually strengthened the case for having him testify rather than weakening it. Even if the GOP successfully brings the trial to a swift close, their having accidentally strengthened the case for witnesses may hurt the legitimacy of the Senate's proceedings and undermined Trump's inevitable claims of exoneration.

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