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If Twitter were all you had to go on, you’d be sure that economic policy was set by whoever could whip up emotions most readily. You’d have no idea that hundreds of thousands of academics around the world dedicate their careers to thinking through different policy options, testing alternatives and studying data. You might also be unaware that teams of economists and other social scientists in our National Treasury, Reserve Bank, universities and research centres are actively studying the best ways to tackle our challenges of poverty and inequality. Twitter’s singular contribution to the history of ideas is to have created a space in which bad ones can spread fast. A study by academics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that fake news was 70% more likely to be retweeted than verified news.Fake news, of course, is a different problem to bad policy ideas per se, though fake news is often calculated to build public support for bad policy. On South African Twitter, fake n...

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