Human Agency in the Propagation of False Information: A Conceptual Framework

Shama Patel, Ioanna Constantiou

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


The ubiquity and dispersive power of social media, sophisticated micro-targeting and artificial intelligence is being weaponized by malicious actors to influence people to believe and spread fake news, creating an urgent need for increased cross-disciplinary research to help combat it. Using the metaphor of a virus spread through human agency, we use established research in persuasive communications, cognition and media studies to conceptualize a multi-agent, multi-variant framework on why people propagate false information on social media. Our conceptual framework accounts for the roles and communicative postures individuals adopt, and their motivation and ability to spread falsities. It posits that humans have persuasive, viral and cognitively inoculated agency in the propagation of false information and elucidates the thought processes and variables that influence how individual’s respond and react to false information. The framework will support empirical studies and aid in the development of integrated approaches to cognitively inoculate individuals against the influence of false information, using multi-disciplinary, multi-variant approaches that are reflective of the complexity of how humans respond to persuasive messages.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 28th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS) : A Virtual AIS Conference
Number of pages11
Place of PublicationAtlanta, GA
PublisherAssociation for Information Systems. AIS Electronic Library (AISeL)
Publication date2020
Article number22
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventThe 28th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS) 2020: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity in a Digital World - Virtual Conference, Marrakesh, Morocco
Duration: 15 Jun 202017 Jun 2020
Conference number: 28


ConferenceThe 28th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS) 2020
LocationVirtual Conference
Internet address
SeriesProceedings of the European Conference on Information Systems


  • Fake news
  • Persuasive communications
  • Cognition
  • Social media

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