Cambridge University researchers have created psychological tools that can combat fake news. Apparently, mixing misinformation with actual facts can help cancel out the effects of bogus claims. BBC reported that researchers at Cambridge University have suggested that “pre-emptively exposing” readers to small bits of misinformation can negate the effects of fake news.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Sander van der Linden, said that the concept is about providing a “cognitive repertoire” that can increase resistance to misinformation.This way, the next time people are exposed to fake news, they are less susceptible. The study was published in the journal “Global Challenges.” The study was conducted as a disguised experiment. Researchers presented over 2,000 U.S. residents with two claims about global warming.
It was found that, when presented consecutively, the effects that well-established facts had on people were eliminated by fake claims.
It was found that, when presented consecutively, the effects that well-established facts had on people were eliminated by fake claims. However, when accurate information was combined with misinformation, like a warning, the fake news had less effect.
According to Phys.org, participants were tasked to rate current levels of scientific agreement on climate change to gauge shifts in their opinions. The inoculation messages were effective in changing the opinions of the participants, regardless of political beliefs.
Tech Crunch added that the more detailed warning was nearly twice as effective as the general warning. This is with regards to shifting the participants’ opinions toward accepting climate science consensus even when exposed to fake news.
Fake news has raised a lot of concerns especially on how easily it spreads on social media. University of Oregon’s Nicole Dahmen has previously warned users about Facebook’s News Feed. She noted that what the 1.13 billion Facebook users are actually getting daily is a “dangerously manipulated” world view.
Researchers at Indiana University have also developed “Hoaxy.” It is a website where users can type the keywords of a story and check how far it has spread as well as how it went viral. Hoaxy checks a public list of known fake news sources when a user searches for a story. It looks for matches in the headlines and bodies of published stories.
Emily Marks is a University Herald Reporter.
This article appeared in The University Herald on 24 January 2017