Social media users who share more news care less about accuracy: Study

New York, March 4 (IANS) People who share news items extensively on social media often tend to discern less over their accuracy, according to a study.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conducted an experiment to understand a core tension between the impulse to share news and to think about whether it is true.

The results showed that even considering whether or not to share news items on social media reduces people’s ability to tell truths from falsehoods.

The study involved asking more than 3,000 people to assess whether various news headlines were accurate.

But if participants were first asked whether they would share that content, they were 35 per cent worse at telling truths from falsehoods. Participants were also 18 per cent less successful at discerning truth when asked about sharing right after evaluating them.

“Just asking people whether they want to share things makes them more likely to believe headlines they wouldn’t otherwise have believed, and less likely to believe headlines they would have believed,” David Rand, Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management said.

“Thinking about sharing just mixes them up,” he added.

While people’s willingness to share news content and their ability to judge it accurately can both be bolstered separately, the study suggests the two things do not positively reinforce each other when considered at the same time.

“The second you ask people about accuracy, you’re prompting them, and the second you ask about sharing, you’re prompting them,” Ziv Epstein, a doctoral student in the Human Dynamics group at the MIT Media Lab said.

“If you ask about sharing and accuracy at the same time, it can undermine people’s capacity for truth discernment.”

The paper will be published in the journal Science Advances.

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