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Study Shows that Spotting ‘Fake News’ on Facebook is Not an Easy Job

The researchers randomly assigned fake news flags among the 40 non-control headlines to see what effect they would have on the participants' responses

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Facebook
In late 2016, Facebook incorporated fact-checking into its platform and began flagging certain news articles by noting that an article was 'disputed by third-party fact checkers.' Pixabay

You can’t trust yourself to discern what’s true and what’s not when you’re on Facebook as researchers have found that ‘Fake news’ is not easy to spot on the social networking site.

“We all believe that we are better than the average person at detecting fake news, but that’s simply not possible,” said study lead author Patricia Moravec, Assistant Professor at the University of Texas in the US.

“The environment of social media and our own biases make us all much worse than we think,” Moravec added.

For the study, published in the journal Management Information Systems Quarterly, the researchers worked with 80 social media-proficient undergraduate students who first answered 10 questions about their own political beliefs.

Each participant was then fitted with an EEG headset.

The students were asked to read 50 political news headlines presented as they would appear in a Facebook feed and assess their credibility.

Forty of the headlines were evenly divided between true and false, with 10 headlines that were clearly true included as controls: ‘Trump Signs New Executive Order on Immigration’ (clearly true), ‘Nominee to Lead EPA Testifies He’ll Enforce Environmental Laws’ (true), ‘Russian Spies Present at Trump’s Inauguration — Seated on Inauguration Platform’ (false).

The researchers randomly assigned fake news flags among the 40 non-control headlines to see what effect they would have on the participants’ responses.

In late 2016, Facebook incorporated fact-checking into its platform and began flagging certain news articles by noting that an article was ‘disputed by third-party fact checkers.’

The students rated each headline’s believability, credibility and truthfulness.

As they worked through the exercise, the participants spent more time and showed significantly more activity in their frontal cortices — the brain area associated with arousal, memory access and consciousness — when headlines supported their beliefs but were flagged as false.

These reactions of discomfort indicated cognitive dissonance when headlines supporting their beliefs were marked as untrue.

But this dissonance was not enough to make participants change their minds. They overwhelmingly said that headlines conforming with their pre-existing beliefs were true, regardless of whether they were flagged as potentially fake.

Facebook
You can’t trust yourself to discern what’s true and what’s not when you’re on Facebook as researchers have found that ‘Fake news’ is not easy to spot on the social networking site. Pixabay

The flag did not change their initial response to the headline, even if it did make them pause a moment longer and study it a bit more carefully.

Political affiliation made no difference in their ability to determine what was true or false.

The experiment showed that social media users are highly subject to confirmation bias, the unintentional tendency to gravitate toward and process information that is consistent with existing beliefs, she said.

ALSO READ: Demand For Removal of Twitter’s Blue Tick In India

This can result in decision-making that ignores information that is inconsistent with those beliefs. (IANS)

Next Story

Social Media Giant Facebook Rolls Out Meme-Making App ‘Whale’

Facebook has quietly rolled out a meme-making app called 'Whale' on the Canadian App Store

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Facebook
Facebook quietly launched meme-making app Whale. Pixabay

Social media giant Facebook has quietly rolled out a meme-making app called ‘Whale’ on the Canadian App Store that may come to other markets including in India later.

The app’s listing confirms that it has been developed by Facebook’s New Product Experimentation (NPE) team, which was set up earlier this year to develop new experimental apps for the social networking platform that has over 2.6 billion users globally.

‘Whale’ is the latest app from NPE, after music app ‘AUX’ and chat app ‘Bump’, reports The Information.

According to Facebook, these apps are intended to help the company discover new features and services that people like.

Facebook- Whale
According to Facebook, these apps are intended to help the company discover new features. Pixabay

Facebook is slowly launching apps in new genres beyond chats to woo more users and open new avenues to make money.

Facebook-owned Instagram has also launched a new video-music remix feature called “Reels” to take on Chinese short video making app TikTok.

Also Read-TikTok Owner ByteDance To Launch Its Own Music Streaming Service

“Just like TikTok, users can soundtrack their ‘Reels’ with a huge catalog of music, or borrow the audio from anyone else’s video to create a remix of their meme or joke.

Rolled out in the Brazilian market first, “Reels” will be available on both iOS and Android. (IANS)