Real Solutions for Fake News? Measuring the Effectiveness of General Warnings and Fact-Check Tags in Reducing Belief in False Stories on Social Media
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Social media has increasingly enabled “fake news” to circulate widely, most notably during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. These intentionally false or misleading stories threaten the democratic goal of a well-informed electorate. This study evaluates the effectiveness of strategies that could be used by Facebook and other social media to counter false stories. Results from a pre-registered experiment indicate that false headlines are perceived as less accurate when people receive a general warning about misleading information on social media or when specific headlines are accompanied by a “Disputed” or “Rated false” tag. Though the magnitudes of these effects are relatively modest, they generally do not vary by whether headlines were congenial to respondents’ political views. In addition, we find that adding a “Rated false” tag to an article headline lowers its perceived accuracy more than adding a “Disputed” tag (Facebook’s original approach) relative to a control condition. Finally, though exposure to the “Disputed” or “Rated false” tags did not affect the perceived accuracy of unlabeled false or true headlines, exposure to a general warning decreased belief in the accuracy of true headlines, suggesting the need for further research into how to most effectively counter false news without distorting belief in true information.
KeywordsFake news Fact check Warnings Corrections Social media Misperceptions
We thank the Dartmouth College Office of Undergraduate Research for generous funding support. We are also grateful to Ro’ee Levy and David Rand for helpful comments.
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