Recognize Misinformation & Verify Before Sharing

2019 starts with an important research publication concerning the rise of misinformation and the importance of information verification:

Khan, M. L., & Idris, I. K. (2019). Recognize Misinformation and Verify Before Sharing: A Reasoned Action and Information Literacy Perspective, Behavior & Information Technology, https://doi.org/10.1080/0144929X.2019.1578828.

             After a rigorous double-blind review by three reviewers, the paper is now finally published in Behavior and Information Technology journal. The topic is important from the perspective of dealing with irresponsible online sharing. Verifying information is vital against the backdrop of rising fake news and spread of misinformation on the Internet. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are popular sites for getting news and information. Sometimes, social media sites are criticized for serving as conduits of misinformation. Surveys and polls reveal heightened mistrust amongst people regarding media and information on social media. It is noticed that there is a great deal of carelessness amongst people who share information on social media. Surprisingly, a majority of people share links on Twitter without even reading them!

The spread of misinformation poses real threats for our societies; having various types of negative consequences in the forms of stock price fluctuations, false advertising, health emergencies and crises, and even election outcomes. While social media platforms such as Facebook and Google are seen to be making efforts to tackle fake news and misinformation on their sites, such efforts have often been less than satisfactory. Our research therefore lays emphasis on what individuals can do to tackle misinformation instead of solely relying on social platforms and their fact-checking systems. We argue that users through information sharing behaviors, share responsibility for spreading inaccurate or false information on social media either intentionally or unintentionally.

Rooted in the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) and information literacy factors, our research model helps us understand factors that can influence people perceived self-efficacy in recognizing misinformation as well as determine sharing behavior without verification.

This study is based on the premise that as long as individuals try to distinguish false or inaccurate information from the accurate information, there is a lesser likelihood of them being misled. We believe that individuals lie at the center of any efforts in tackling the spread of misinformation. The abstract of the study is as follows:

Abstract: The menace of misinformation online has gained considerable media attention and plausible solutions for combatting misinformation have often been less than satisfactory. In an environment of ubiquitous online social sharing, we contend that it is the individuals that can play a major role in halting the spread of misinformation. We conducted a survey (n = 396) to illuminate the factors that predict (i) the perceived ability to recognize false information on social media, and (ii) the behavior of sharing of information without verification. A set of regression analyses reveal that the perceived self-efficacy to detect misinformation on social media is predicted by income and level of education, Internet skills of information seeking and verification, and attitude towards information verification. We also found that sharing of information on social media without verification is predicted by Internet experience, Internet skills of information seeking, sharing, and verification, attitude towards information verification, and belief in the reliability of information. Recommendations regarding information literacy, the role of individuals as media gatekeepers who verify social media information, and the importance of independent corroboration are discussed.

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