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Establishing Credibility of News Sources Can Combat Spread of Fake News

Researchers found that when news about the arrest came from police reports, gut-level attitudes toward Kevin immediately became more negative

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Multiple apps are displayed on an iPhone in New York. VOA

Establishing credibility for news sources is the right policy to combat the spread of fake news and misinformation on social media platforms, say researchers.

Fake news has become a threat to democratic institutions worldwide and false information can have far-reaching effects.

Researchers from Cornell University now provide new evidence that people’s beliefs about the source of information affects how they take in that information, even at the level of their automatic responses.

They also found that new information can modify or even undo existing impressions caused by fake news.

“We wanted to know whether offering information about the source of news matters for people’s gut-level, automatic reactions,” said Melissa Ferguson, Psychology Professor at Cornell.

“Does knowing that something is fake have lingering pernicious effects that can later shape and influence our thoughts and behaviour toward the person? Our studies suggest that establishing credibility for news sources is the right policy to combat fake news,” Ferguson emphasized.

Ferguson and her fellow researchers conducted seven experiments with more than 3,100 participants to assess how the truth value of new information about others affected both their reported feelings and their gut-level, automatic reactions.

Donald Trump
Trump supporter holds a T-shirt reading “You Are Fake News” before a rally by President Donald Trump in Rochester, Minnesota, Oct. 4, 2018. Freedom House says that democracy in the U.S. weakened significantly and blames U.S. President Donald Trump for “ongoing attacks.” (Representational image). VOA

The experiments ranged from using video games and narratives of inter-group conflicts to studies featuring an individual named Kevin.

In one experiment, Kevin was depicted positively. Participants were then told something disturbing, including that he had been arrested for abusing his wife.

Researchers found that when news about the arrest came from police reports, gut-level attitudes toward Kevin immediately became more negative.

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But when that information was attributed to a friend of Kevin’s former girlfriend, participants retained their positive attitude toward Kevin.

“In other words, whether participants thought this new information was true determined even their automatic feelings,” the researchers wrote in a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In a separate experiment, this occurred even if participants initially thought the information was true and only later discovered that it was from a questionable source, the study noted. (IANS)

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Fake News Continues to Flourish on Social Media Platforms After Polls

The flow of fake news after the election results suggests that the tide of misinformation on social media is unlikely to stop any time soon

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India Polls, Fake News, Millions
Reaching out to the old people, who are newly getting introduced to smartphones and social media is a challenge. Pixabay

Posts containing fake news continued to flourish on social media platforms after the end of the Lok Sabha elections that saw the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returning to power with a massive win.

Celebrations followed the results that pave the way for Modi to become the Prime Minister of the country for the second consecutive term. Some distributed ladoos to celebrate the victory. A few others spread fake news.

A post claiming that “Welcome Modi Ji” has been written on all the city buses of London soon started doing the rounds on social media platforms.

The claims were found to be fake by fact-checking platform BOOM. The images used for the posts originated in 2015, when a bus named “Modi Express” was launched by the Indians living in the UK, the fact checkers found.

Some even circulated a video on Facebook that claimed that a Gujrati man got so elated with Modi’s re-election that he showered cash on people in Milton, Canada. The caption that accompanied the video claimed that the man made a lot of profit after the share market responded positively to Modi’s re-election.

BOOM traced the viral video to the Instagram account of a Detroit, US based man. It found that the video, originally shot in New York, was uploaded much before the election results in India were declared and it had nothing to do with the celebration of BJP’s victory.

On May 23, the day the results of the Lok Sabha polls were declared, a video that showed Modi with his mother went viral on Facebook. While social media users claimed that the video was shot after BJP’s landslide victory in the elections, fact checking website Alt News traced the video to 2014.

India Polls, Fake News, Millions
These forwards, many of which contained fake news, surged during the election time. Pixabay

BOOM also found that following the victory of the BJP, a quote that was falsely attributed to Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan in the past resurfaced on WhatsApp.

“I would leave India if Modi becomes the PM of this country,” the actor was falsely quoted as saying in the post that demanded that the actor should now “apologise or leave the country as PM Modi is back”.

BOOM traced the quote to a fake tweet and fake news report that celebrated the 2018 April Fool’s Day with the false information.

These posts, however, are only the tip of the iceberg. Many more fake posts are doing the rounds on social media with some even falsely claiming that six lakh votes polled in favour of Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Kerala’s Wayanad mysteriously disappeared from the records.

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According to BOOM Founder Govindraj Ethiraj, the spread of fake news reached an “all-time high” in the run up to the 2019 general election.

The flow of fake news after the election results suggests that the tide of misinformation on social media is unlikely to stop any time soon.

“The biggest challenge to fighting fake new is that over 300 million of the 550 million smartphone and broadband users in the country are low on literacy and digital literacy and are especially gullible,” leading tech policy and media consultant Prasanto K. Roy earlier told IANS. (IANS)