Political Misinformation and Factual Corrections on the Facebook News Feed: Experimental Evidence

January 20, 2022

The University of Chicago Press Journals

As concerns about the spread of political misinformation have mounted, scholars have found that fact-checks can reduce the extent to which people believe misinformation. Whether this finding extends to social media is unclear. Social media is a high-choice environment in which the cognitive effort required to separate truth from fiction, individuals’ penchant for select exposure, and motivated reasoning may render fact checks ineffective. Furthermore, large social media companies have largely refrained from permitting external researchers to administer experiments on their platforms. To investigate whether fact-checking can rebut misinformation on social media, the researchers administered two experiments on large, nationally representative samples using a novel platform designed to mimic Facebook’s news feed. The researchers observed corrections having large effects on factual beliefs (.62 on a 5-point scale, p < .001). While misinformation degrades accuracy, their results offer strong evidence that fact-checks increase accuracy, even when tested on realistic simulations of social media platforms.

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