Fake news about Covid-19: The importance of critical thinking recommendations

Published on October 27, 2022 – Covid-19 fake news is widely available on social media. Our study investigated the impact of a critical thinking recommendation on people’s ability to distinguish real from fake Twitter news messages. We found that participants who were exposed to the recommendations were better able to discern the truthfulness of the messages, and, in turn, showed less trust in fake news messages. 

Covid-19 related fake news widely circulates on social media. This is problematic as people commonly do not process information on social media in a very critical manner. Also, when people encounter particular online content multiple times, this tends to increase the content’s trustworthiness, sometimes irrespective of the accuracy of the provided information. Our study aims to explore whether, how, and for whom a simple critical thinking recommendation added to a social media newsfeed can aid people to better discern true news from fake news and reduce their trust in fake news. In an online experiment, 220 participants were exposed to a Twitter newsfeed with true and fake Covid-19-related news messages, either with or without critical thinking recommendations asking them to evaluate the content and the source of the message. The findings showed that participants who were exposed to the recommendations showed less trust in fake news messages, which was mediated by an increased accuracy in news truth discernment. Results showed no significant moderating effects of participants’ information literacy and impulsivity characteristics. Overall, the findings of this study are promising as this scalable, low-cost intervention might potentially help combat the effects of fake news on social media.

Link to article.

This article is based on the Research master thesis of Jasmijn Kruijt

Themes: eHealth & Tech, Communicatie met risicogroepen, Covid-19