Study: On social media, most people do care about accurate news but need reminders not to spread misinformation.


Stopping the spread of political misinformation on social media may seem like an impossible task. But a new study co-authored by MIT scholars finds that most people who share false news stories online do so unintentionally and that their sharing habits can be modified through reminders about accuracy.

When such reminders are displayed, it can increase the gap between the percentage of true news stories and false news stories that people share online, as shown in online experiments that the researchers developed.

“Getting people to think about accuracy makes them more discerning in their sharing, regardless of ideology,” says MIT Professor David Rand, co-author of a newly published paper detailing the results. “And it translates into a scalable and easily implementable intervention for social media platforms.”

The study also indicates why people share false information online. Among people who shared a set of false news stories used in the study, around 50 per cent did so because of inattention, related to the hasty way people use social media; another 33 per cent were mistaken about the accuracy of the news they saw and shared it because they (incorrectly) thought it was true, and about 16 per cent knowingly shared false news headlines.

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