FakeNewsLab: Experimental Study on Biases and Pitfalls Preventing us from Distinguishing True from False News

by   Giancarlo Ruffo, et al.

Misinformation posting and spreading in Social Media is ignited by personal decisions on the truthfulness of news that may cause wide and deep cascades at a large scale in a fraction of minutes. When individuals are exposed to information, they usually take a few seconds to decide if the content (or the source) is reliable, and eventually to share it. Although the opportunity to verify the rumour is often just one click away, many users fail to make a correct evaluation. We studied this phenomenon by implementing a web-based questionnaire that was compiled by 7,298 different volunteers. Participants were asked to mark 20 news as true or false. Interestingly, false news is correctly identified more frequently than true news, but showing the full article instead of just the title, surprisingly, does not increase general accuracy. Also, displaying the original source of the news may contribute to mislead the user in some cases, while the wisdom of the crowd can positively assist individuals' ability to classify correctly. Furthermore, participants that autonomously opened an additional browser tab while compiling the survey show higher accuracy than users that did not. This suggests a parallel fact-checking activity that support users' decisions. Finally, users that declare themselves as young adults are also those who open a new tab more often, suggesting more familiarity with the Web.


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