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Study: Real News Tops Fake News (And Yes, This Is Real News)

March 17, 2018 in Economics

By David Kirby, Thomas Wood

David Kirby and Thomas Wood

If 2016 marked the arrival of “fake
news”—widely disseminated false news
stories—recent events have made clear that the threat is here
to stay. Recent European elections, including last week’s Italian elections, have been
rocked by patently untrue stories. A slew of similarly fabricated
stories is sure to hit U.S. shores ahead of the 2018 elections.
Some will come from malevolent foreign actors with political
motives. Others will come from shadowy companies just trying to
make a buck. Still others will come from trolls who delight in
mischief-making.

Whatever their origin, there’s no doubt that fake news is
a serious problem. But all hope is not lost. It turns out that
there’s a simple way to get people to disbelieve the fake
news they encounter: Tell them the truth. Our research, forthcoming at the Journal of Experimental
Political Science
, makes clear that everyday people,
across the ideological spectrum, are willing to reject fake news
and accept a factual correction. When people who see a fake news
story are told that the story they’ve read is plainly wrong,
they reject the fake news story.

Indeed, this is even true when a fake story aligns with one’s
political beliefs. If you’re a conservative and you’re told that a
fake story flattering to conservatives was actually fabricated,
you’ll likely respond by conceding that the story is fake. The same
is true for liberals and independents. However, there’s one thing
that proof of fake news won’t do—get people to change their
political convictions.

mericans care about their
political parties, and they hold tightly to their political
beliefs. But they also like being accurate.

Here’s how our study worked. We recruited people to take a
survey and randomly assigned them to read a fake news story. All
the fake stories were taken from real life, and selected across the
political spectrum. Some were of recent vintage, such as the 2016
“Pizzagate” story, which claimed Democratic operatives
were operating a secret ring of pedophiles in a D.C.-area pizza
parlor. Others were older, such as allegations that President Obama
was not born in the United States.

We even took stories initially reported by mainstream news
outlets that were later revealed to be entirely inaccurate, such as
The Washington Post’s claim that the Russians had
infiltrated Vermont’s power grid. And we looked at fake
stories bubbling among conservative websites that credit President
Trump for false accomplishments, such as a crackdown on sex
trafficking.

After reading their story, some subjects were randomly assigned
to read a correction. This allows us to measure changes in opinion
over and above background knowledge of these …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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