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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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carbon, digital
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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Users’ Data Privacy hits Facebook Research on Fake News

Facebook was fined $201,865 dollars for the breach and nearly $79,000 for failing to provide notice of the breach

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Social Media, Facebook, Authenticity, Posts
The social media application, Facebook is displayed on Apple's App Store, July 30, 2019. VOA

A research initiative launched in cooperation with Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal has hit a roadblock as the social media platform is not keen to provide more sensitive and detailed data without compromising user privacy.

According to a Nature report on Thursday, the US-based research initiative funded 12 projects that were designed to investigate topics such as the spread of fake news and how social media was used in recent elections globally.

“Last month, the 8 charitable funders – which so far have provided a total of up to $600,000 for the scheme called the Social Media and Democracy Research Grants programme – gave Facebook time until 30 September to provide the full data set or said they would begin winding up the programme,” the report elaborated.

Following this, Facebook released a further data set, but not the full range originally promised.

“Other partners that are involved in the project say they are continuing their efforts to build a computing infrastructure that allows the company to share its data with researchers, irrespective of the funders’ decisions,” the Nature report further said.

“This is one of the largest sets of links ever to be created for academic research on this topic. We are working hard to deliver on additional demographic fields while safeguarding individual people’s privacy,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying.

facebook, instant games
FILE – Attendees walk past a Facebook logo during Facebook Inc’s F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, United States. VOA

There are multiple calls to break up Facebook in the wake of several data breaches and spread of misinformation on the platform used by billions of users.

Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook, recently said that he firmly believes that simply breaking them up will not make the problems go away.

“The real solutions will only come through new, smart regulation instead,” he added.

Turkey on Thursday fined social media giant Facebook for over $281,000 for a data breach that exposed the personal information of hundreds of thousands of users in the country.

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Facebook exposed the name, gender, birthday, relationship status, educational background, religion, hometown, personal data and location information of 280,959 users, said the Personal Data Protection Authority — Turkey’s watchdog agency for data privacy.

Facebook was fined $201,865 dollars for the breach and nearly $79,000 for failing to provide notice of the breach. (IANS)