The advent of the coronavirus pandemic has also given rise to multiple conspiracy theories and misinformation related to COVID-19. Fake news has been making the rounds on social media, and a sad fact is that many people believe in them.
Misinformation can create chaos and invoke violence -- we have heard and seen this happen. This is why we must combat fake news, and this is the point of a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The authors of the study described how imparting digital literacy could help people identifying fake news on social media. The study, which involves researchers from the U.S., U.K., and India, conducted surveys in these countries where misinformation has become rampant in recent years.
Both Facebook and WhatsApp, which have become the favorite of online fake news perpetrators, have already taken steps in order to inform their users on identifying misinformation. Facebook's "Tips to Spot False News" is a widely disseminated digital literacy intervention and consists of ten strategies that readers can use to identify misleading stories.
Facebook's tips are pretty simple but are straightforward for readers to apply, favoring quick decision-making. For example, a tip recommends users to always question headlines, telling them if something seems unbelievable, it probably is.
Now the research team gave Facebook'st up to a group of around 4,000 readers from both the U.S. and India. They were then exposed to several contents and were given instructions to identify which ones were false. The team surveyed readers in two stages to assess how long the effects of the intervention lasted. The first stage was performed soon after the users were given the tops, while the second came after several weeks.
It was found that due to the intervention, the readers' trust was reduced in both mainstream and false news, but the effect on the latter was significantly high. It improved readers' ability to identify which one was a fact from the not. In India, this ability was increased by 18%. In the U.S., there was an improvement of 27%.
But the researchers warn that the study has some limitations, although it did offer some insights into how we can remedy the rise of false information. The study does not totally eliminate the belief of readers in fake news. Besides, people's trust in mainstream news also declined as a result.
The study did not also describe if all respondents read and understood the tips from Facebook correctly. But the good thing is that the results are a compelling demonstration that a simple intervention can help people in knowing which news to believe in from the not.