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- Social Media and Democracy Research Grants
- A Systematic Review on Fake News Themes Reported in Literature
- Fake Claims of Fake News: Political Misinformation, Warnings, and the Tainted Truth Effect
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Fact-checking and warnings of misinformation are increasingly salient and prevalent components of modern news media and political communications.
While many warnings about political misinformation are valid and enable people to reject misleading information, the quality and validity of misinformation warnings can vary widely. Replicating and extending research from the fields of social cognition and forensic psychology, we find evidence that valid retrospective warnings of misleading news can help individuals discard erroneous information, although the corrections are weak.
Invalid misinformation warnings taint the truth, lead individuals to discard authentic information, and impede political memory. As only a few studies on the tainted truth effect exist, our research helps to illuminate the less explored dark side of misinformation warnings. Our findings suggest general warnings of misinformation should be avoided as indiscriminate use can reduce the credibility of valid news sources and lead individuals to discard useful information.
Warnings of misinformation are an increasingly common feature of American political communication. The spread of misleading news through social media platforms during the U. In the months prior to the general election, one in four Americans read a fact-checking article from a national fact-checking website Guess et al.
Fact-checking organization growth accelerated in the early s, and the number of fact-checking outlets continues to increase in the U. Due to the increased salience of political misinformation and rise of fact-checking organizations, people often encounter warnings regarding misinformation, but the quality and veracity of these warnings can vary considerably. Valid warnings of misinformation tend to originate from professional third-party organizations, target information that is actually misleading, and reduce the spread and acceptance of misinformation.
For example, FactCheck. Warnings originating from these organizations tend to be precise and issued neutrally. Footnote 1 Other institutions, such as Facebook, also devote resources to counteract false news through critical changes to algorithms and various policies. Footnote 2 Irrespective of the source of a warning, the main criterion of whether or not a warning is valid is if it correctly targets misinformation and efficiently counters the effects of misinformation.
In contrast, less valid or invalid misinformation warnings are biased and inefficient. First, warnings of misinformation are biased when they target factual information rather than misinformation. Bias may be inadvertent but some misinformation warnings are intentionally designed to discredit information.
Strategic elites may issue warnings of misinformation against news that is factually correct but unfavorable. Second, warnings of misinformation may be less valid because their effects are inefficient and imprecise. In the U. These and other warnings of misinformation employed by President Trump are often so broadly construed that they could potentially target both misleading and accurate news Grynbaum a , b. I have learned to live with Fake News, which has never been more corrupt than it is right now.
Someday, I will tell you the secret! While clumsy warnings may be able to counter misinformation, they are less valid because they often incur high unintended casualties. For example, in contrast to warnings that identify specific misleading facts, Clayton et al. Mistrust and rejection of news is beneficial when that news is misleading, but when the mistrust and rejection spills over to real news, the potential drawbacks of misinformation warnings become apparent.
Pennycook and Rand also uncover other drawbacks of misinformation warnings. Those false stories which fail to get tagged are considered validated and seen as more accurate.
Even legitimate misinformation warnings, if not fully deployed, can enhance the effects of misinformation in the larger system. Sophisticated organizations seek to employ nuanced and specific fact-checking techniques, but less valid warnings of misinformation continue to be used by both political elites and in broad public conversations on misinformation and the news media.
Consequently, it is very important that we continue to investigate both the positive and negative effects of misinformation warnings in the realm of news media and political communications. In this study, we investigate the potentially negative side effects of invalid, retrospective Footnote 4 misinformation warnings. To do this, we replicate and expand a relatively understudied area of research traditionally applied to the area of eyewitness testimony in the field of social cognition.
Specifically, we investigate the tainted truth effect , which proposes that misdirected warnings of post-event misinformation can disadvantage memory of an original event by discrediting factual information and causing it to be discarded at the time of memory assessment Echterhoff et al. Second, when individuals are retrospectively exposed to a valid warning that the news article contained misinformation, are they able to discard the misinformation and remember the correct original event information?
While all three research questions work together to build a picture of individual memory and information processing, the third question regarding the potential drawbacks of misinformation warnings, formally referred to as the tainted truth effect, is the focus of our research. From these questions, we derive a series of particular expectations. Exposure to misleading information in a post-event description is expected to reduce memory recognition of the original event.
Second, respondents who are exposed to misinformation in the news article but are later warned about misleading information should recognize original event details and misinformation better than respondents who were exposed to misinformation without a warning. Exposure to a valid retrospective misinformation warning will increase the ability to correctly recognize original event details.
Exposure to a valid retrospective misinformation warning will reduce the incorrect recognition of misinformation as original event information. Third, warnings of misinformation are expected to taint all information that is associated with the news article. Therefore, misinformation warnings, even when completely invalid in the case where no misinformation is in the post-event description , should lead individuals to also reject accurate information that is associated with the news article and result in reduced memory accuracy compared to individuals who are not warned.
Exposure to an invalid or imprecise retrospective misinformation warning will reduce the ability to correctly recognize original event details. Finally, we expect trust to be fundamentally damaged by misinformation warnings. First, when warned of misinformation, individuals should be less trusting of their own memory and feel more uncertain about their responses. Second, warnings of misinformation should erode trust in the origins of the information and should lead people to view the news source as less credible.
Exposure to a misinformation warning will reduce the perceived credibility of the post-event description that is targeted by the warning. We find evidence that retrospective, invalid misinformation warnings taint news and lead individuals to view the news as less credible. Increased skepticism produced by invalid misinformation warnings leads individuals to discard information that was in fact accurate, as predicted by the tainted truth hypothesis, and these invalid warnings are also associated with more memory uncertainty.
In addition to the tainted truth effect, we find valid warnings help people reject misleading information, but we do not find that individuals are able to fully overcome the effect of misinformation and remember all of the correct information. Our findings generally align with the few studies that have previously examined this topic. However, our use of a diverse subject pool and political context reveals more muted effects and insights into the influence of misinformation warnings on memory, memory uncertainty, and the perceived credibility of news that has been discounted by misinformation warnings.
Terms such as disinformation, fake or false news, and post-event misinformation refer to specific types of misinformation. Footnote 5 Disinformation is misinformation that is intentionally produced and spread to deceive people Lazer et al. Footnote 6 Often classified as a type of disinformation, fake or false news is fabricated information that assumes the guise of traditional news media but only in form, eschewing the organizational process or intent designed to produce accurate and credible information Lazer et al.
Finally, post-event misinformation is false information in the specific case where individuals have direct experience with an event but are later presented with misleading information about that original event. Historically, social cognition researchers have studied the post-event misinformation effect for the purpose of understanding eyewitness testimonies and criminal trials e.
However, the post-event approach to misinformation can also be applied to political information and communication. While most of the political information received by the average individual is reprocessed through intermediaries e. For example, people may watch a presidential debate and then read or watch commentary that summarizes and expands upon the debate.
Similarly, with the rise of video streaming and sharing on social media platforms, people can experience a political event almost directly and then later encounter the same event reprocessed through a post-event description, such as a news article. Moreover, the pluralistic nature of political communication often results in people seeing multiple presentations of the same event, roughly mirroring the original event and post-event description paradigm.
Whether the result of calculation or error, any reprocessing of information increases the likelihood that the information will be biased and misleading, thus opening individuals to the misinformation effect in the realm of political information. Hundreds of studies over several decades have tackled the topic of the post-event misinformation effect Ayers and Reder ; Blank and Launay ; Loftus In the s, Elizabeth Loftus and colleagues were among the first to explore how eyewitness stories could be distorted by suggestive forensic interview practices Loftus ; Loftus et al.
Loftus et al. This finding, referred to as the misinformation effect, was replicated in many studies under a wide range of conditions for reviews see Ayers and Reder ; Chrobak and Zaragoza ; Loftus ; Frenda et al.
Generally, a three-stage paradigm is used to investigate the misinformation effect. Participants are first shown an original event, then exposed to misleading information, and finally have their memory of the original event assessed, through either recognition or recall memory tests. A subset of research on the misinformation effect explores whether the negative effects of misinformation on memory can be reversed, or at least minimized e. For example, one of the earliest studies on the effects of misinformation warnings conducted by Dodd and Bradshaw found identifying the source of the misinformation as biased dramatically reduced the effect of misleading information on eyewitness memory.
In the field of political science, a related body of literature also scrutinizes the causes, implications, and difficulty of countering political misinformation for topics, including the health care reform Berinsky ; Nyhan ; climate change van der Linden et al.
Footnote 7 Under some conditions, warnings of misinformation can help individuals counter the effects of misinformation on attitudes and memory, but the corrections are often only partial, with long-lasting negative effects on trust Cook and Lewandowsky ; Huang ; Lewandowsky et al.
Warnings may even produce a boomerang or backfire effect and lead to misinformation becoming more deeply entrenched in memory when corrections conflict with personal worldview or ideology Nyhan and Reifler In a meta-analysis of 25 studies on retrospective warnings and post-event misinformation, Blank and Launay found retrospective warnings were only somewhat effective, on average reducing the post-event misinformation effect by half. In addition to imperfectly counteracting misperceptions, misinformation warnings can produce other, often unintended, consequences.
Although few in number, some studies outside of political science have investigated how misinformation warnings can extend beyond the intended target of misinformation and negatively influence surrounding information and memories. For example, Greene et al. Similarly, Meade and Roediger found warnings of an unreliable co-witness reduced recall of correct items reported by the co-witness.
Green et al. Drawing on the research of Greene et al. They found that when warned about misinformation, participants were less likely to recognize events that were accurately described in a post-event description, especially when the items were somewhat peripheral or difficult to remember. In their investigation of the tainted truth effect, Echterhoff et al. Footnote 8 Echterhoff et al.
Increased skepticism leads any information that is associated with the untrustworthy source to be tainted and rejected in retrospect, regardless of whether it is true or false. We also propose that retrospective warnings fundamentally alter how people reconstruct memory. In the absence of misinformation warnings, individuals should naturally rely more on post-event descriptions of an event as they are more recent and accessible Wyler and Oswald ; Zaller However, when these post-event descriptions become tainted by misinformation warnings, individuals will feel more uncertainty and engage in a memory reconstruction process that discounts and rejects more recent data that comes from the post-event description, including both misinformation and accurate information.
Only a few studies on the tainted truth effect emerged after the initial formal consideration of the phenomenon by Echterhoff et al. In a series of related experiments, Szpitalak and Polczyk , , drew on Polish high school and university student subject pools to replicate and test the misinformation and the tainted truth effects in the contexts of a radio debate on education reform and a historical lecture on Christopher Columbus. Clayton et al.
While the tainted truth effect was not the central hypothesis motivating their research, Clayton et al. Footnote 9 Within this general design, participants were exposed to two main experimental manipulations: the first manipulation varied the content of the post-event description, and the second varied the presence of a retrospective warning of misinformation. While all participants observed the exact same original event, the informational content of the written post-event description differed across three experimental description conditions.
In the Control Condition, the post-event description was a vague summary of the original event with no review of the specific facts on which they were later tested. In the Information Condition, the post-event description provided an accurate review of precise facts seen in the original event that were also included in the final memory test.
Social Media and Democracy Research Grants
In this systematic literature review, a study of the factors involved in the spreading of fake news, have been provided. In this review, the root causes of the spreading of fake news are identified to reduce the encouraging of such false information. To combat the spreading of fake news on social media, the reasons behind the spreading of fake news must first be identified. Therefore, this literature review takes an early initiative to identify the possible reasons behind the spreading of fake news. The purpose of this literature review is to identify why individuals tend to share false information and to possibly help in detecting fake news before it spreads. The increase in use of social media exposes users to misleading information, satire and fake advertisements [ 3 ].
is social media, powerful actors today are instrumentalising 'fake news' 16 http://noanimalpoaching.org [accessed free of dominant ideology or bias born of gender, ethnicity, linguistic grouping, class.
A Systematic Review on Fake News Themes Reported in Literature
Communist and Post-Communist Studies 1 March ; 53 1 : — This study explores youth accuracy judgments of disinformative and nondisinformative claims. Analyses are based on a nationally representative youth 16—20 years old survey experiment conducted in the Czech Republic in When they were exposed to posts regarding refugee crisis, young people were asked to judge the accuracy of the statements accompanying the posts. Motivated reasoning of youth depended primarily on the alignment with the posts and the ideology of participants.
There is considerable concern about the role that social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, play in promoting misperceptions during political campaigns. These technologies are widely used, and inaccurate information flowing across them has a high profile. This research uses three-wave panel surveys conducted with representative samples of Americans during both the and U. Presidential elections to assess whether use of social media for political information promoted endorsement of falsehoods about major party candidates or important campaign issues. Fixed effects regression helps ensure that observed effects are not due to individual differences.
Fake Claims of Fake News: Political Misinformation, Warnings, and the Tainted Truth Effect
Given the potential for widespread dissemination of this material, we examine the individual-level characteristics associated with sharing false articles during the U. First and foremost, we find that sharing this content was a relatively rare activity. Conservatives were more likely to share articles from fake news domains, which in were largely pro-Trump in orientation, than liberals or moderates. We also find a strong age effect, which persists after controlling for partisanship and ideology: On average, users over 65 shared nearly seven times as many articles from fake news domains as the youngest age group. One of the most discussed phenomena in the aftermath of the U. Scholars and commentators have raised concerns about the implications of fake news for the quality of democratic discourse, as well as the prevalence of misinformation more generally 1. Some have gone so far as to assert that such content had a persuasive impact that could have affected the election outcome, although the best evidence suggests that these claims are farfetched 2.
Why do people consume and share fake news online? Previous work has shown that news consumption and sharing emerges from complex interactions among news sources, news content, and user characteristics: users consume and share ideologically aligned news and shun the opposite. Identifying the mechanisms by which peers amplify fake and polarized news remains challenging, however, because social media has coevolved with polarization and shifts in the news media landscape. To illuminate these mechanisms, we begin by developing new natural language processing NLP methods to measure the ideology and emotion of news content and to assess how ideology and emotion of news content affect sharing and consumption. Having established this baseline, we then exploit a natural discontinuity to identify specifically peer-related effects on sharing: recent public changes in the Facebook algorithm abruptly shifted the balance between peer- and media-sourced news, allowing us to use difference-in-difference and other longitudinal estimators to measure changes in polarized or fake news and discover how peer-sharing affects these tendencies. This combination of NLP, network, and discontinuity approaches should provide unique insights into the interactions between news, ideology, falsity, and peer sharing, and shed light on important questions such as how social media may have affected polarization, fake news, and political knowledge in the recent era.
Fact-checking and warnings of misinformation are increasingly salient and prevalent components of modern news media and political communications. While many warnings about political misinformation are valid and enable people to reject misleading information, the quality and validity of misinformation warnings can vary widely. Replicating and extending research from the fields of social cognition and forensic psychology, we find evidence that valid retrospective warnings of misleading news can help individuals discard erroneous information, although the corrections are weak. Invalid misinformation warnings taint the truth, lead individuals to discard authentic information, and impede political memory. As only a few studies on the tainted truth effect exist, our research helps to illuminate the less explored dark side of misinformation warnings. Our findings suggest general warnings of misinformation should be avoided as indiscriminate use can reduce the credibility of valid news sources and lead individuals to discard useful information.