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Younger, well-educated social media users more likely to spot fake news

Research at the School has found that training could be an effective strategy to reduce the spread of misinformation online.

The study, by Associate Professor Spyros Angelopoulos, also found that younger and highly educated social media users are more likely to spot fake news online after receiving the training. The research argues that the training protocols could be effective in reducing the spread of misinformation online and should be in place for all social media users.

Looking into how training can help spot fake news

The researchers were keen to understand whether training protocols on identifying fake news would make it easier for social media users to recognise unreliable, or untrue statements, and reduce the amount, and impact, of fake news shared online.

The study had over 400 participants from a range of ages, demographics, and education backgrounds, who were split into two groups: those who received relevant training, and those who did not. All participants were then shown news articles, both real and fake and were asked to identify the ones that they perceived as fake.

Could it really work?

The study showed that those participants who received the training protocol were more likely to spot fake news. There was also a correlation between the age and the level of education of social media users and the likelihood of them spotting fake news, with younger, highly educated users being the most likely.

“It’s difficult to place responsibility on which organisations should be removing and blocking fake news online. Though some social networking sites have begun removing posts of users who spread fake news, the threat is ever greater due to the emergence of new technologies such as deepfakes.

It is, thus, imperative that social media users can identify which news stories are fake, so that the wider public is not affected—be it politically, health-wise or societally—by the spread of misinformation.” Dr Spyros Angelopoulos

More needs to be done

These findings suggest that there is more to be done for tackling fake news on social media. Greater levels of identification and reporting will reduce the spread of fake news, and the researchers suggest that short training protocols should be in place to educate social media users and assist in countering the negative effects of misinformation.

Such training is likely to also encourage social media users to obtain a more balance view of the news they consume, instead of often being stuck in political silos and information bubbles on social media.

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