Users’ polarization and confirmation bias are key strategies in the misinformation campaigns on social media. Polarization actually leads to anger and sometimes to violence. Let’s have a look at the results of years of polarization campaigns in France based on a recent IFOP study.

  • Every third Frenchman believes in conspiracy theories: A connection between vaccination opponents and Putin-understanders is discernible
  • One in ten French people believes that the Ukrainian government is a junta infiltrated by neo-Nazis.
  • 28% of the population believe that Putin’s “military operation” is welcomed by Russian-speaking Ukrainians.
  • 30% think the West has goaded Ukraine to join NATO and the EU.

One in two French people (52%), according to the study by the Paris-based Ifop Institute for Public Opinion Research, is convinced that at least one of the above is correct.

Most susceptible to Putin’s propaganda were the voters of the far-right and far-left politicians: Eric Zemmour, Marine Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Radio listeners are more immune to conspiracy theories than their contemporaries who get their information exclusively on the Internet. People on social networks are the easiest to manipulate. Thus, 37% of the “very conspiracy-minded” people affirm that the media they use are rather media that share their point of view, against 26% on average and 24% among non-conspiracy-minded people.

The susceptibility to Putin’s propaganda goes back to the times of the pandemic: since then, more than a third believe in conspiracy theories. One in ten are convinced that the vaccines will contain 5G nanochips. Nineteen percent believe the vaccines would have caused tens of thousands of deaths.

60% of the French believe in witchcraft and/or clairvoyance. Every third person fears the evil eye. There are three times more conspiracy theorists among the superstitious than in the minority of the rationally minded.

In fact, 75% of French people say they have been confronted with fake news. One in five admits that they have been misled at least once. Misconceptions are known to teach the most.

Yet, the French are no longer so easily deceived. The young are much more cunning and careful than the older generation, who share seven times more fake news on Facebook.

In short, the virality of misinformation on social media is directly related to the increasing polarization and segregation of users. As we know by now, the human tendency to acquire information adhering to one’s system of beliefs– plays a pivotal role in information cascades. Selective exposure has a crucial role in content diffusion and facilitates the formation of echo chambers –groups of like-minded people who acquire, reinforce and shape their preferred narrative. To improve how we contribute constructively to our society’s fragile social predicament, it’s crucial that we avoid falling into echo chambers as well as learning the most prominent seven rhetorical tactics that are likely to amplify polarization.


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