Do You Really Know If It’s True? How Asking Users to Rate Stories Affects Belief in Fake News on Social Media

AbstractThe rise of “fake news” has become a major concern for social media platforms. In response, Facebook has proposed and tested the idea of users flagging and rating news articles and sources, much akin to how consumers rate products and services on the Internet. One obvious challenge with this crowdsourced rating approach is whether the users really know enough to rate news articles and sources. Perhaps, a side benefit of asking users to evaluate an article—and asking about their personal experience with the event described in the article—is making them realize that they do not know enough about the event to make an accurate judgment, thus pushing them to become more skeptical. We asked 68 social media users to assess the believability of 42 social media headlines. We found that, while users were generally more likely to believe articles that agreed with their point of view, asking users to rate pushed them to think more critically about the truthfulness of the articles. Moreover, once users had been asked to rate some articles, they remained critical of other articles as well, even without the rating prompt. Overall, our findings suggest that asking users to evaluate the truthfulness of articles may not only produce rating information that can be a useful reference at a later point in time but also have an immediate benefit of alerting users to think more critically about all articles they see.

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