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Most people do not check whether it’s fake news before sharing: Study

‘This is a pioneering study that helps understand why individuals would share fake news on social media using a theoretical lens and information literacy factors’

Washington, DC: Most people share information on social media without checking for the right or wrong information. This has come out from research. Researchers at the University of Ohio in the United States have found that many factors can be used to detect incorrect information on social media (known popularly as fake news).

A study published in Behavior and Information Technology magazine found that it is possible to estimate whether some people can share false information based on certain factors.

Professor M Laeeq Khan of Ohio University said, “This is a pioneering study that helps understand why individuals would share misinformation on social media using a theoretical lens and information literacy factors.”

Khan said in a statement, “Fake news and misinformation could be rightly termed as the major issues of our time. Almost every other study in this realm falls short of highlighting the vital role of individuals in halting the spread of misinformation.”

To test the research hypotheses that predict the sharing of misinformation, Khan extended his work from a US framework to gather data in Indonesia.

Indonesia is not only one of the largest social media markets in the world, but the country has also caught news headlines for fighting misinformation and hoaxes, especially during its election season, researchers said.

The study asked participants to rate their perceived internet skills, self-esteem and internet experiences as well as their attitudes towards fact-checking online information, belief in the reliability, and how often participants shared information without fact-checking.

There were 396 participants in the study, which found that age, social class and gender did not play a huge part, but rather media and information literacy was found to be the biggest factor in recognising misinformation.

“The important role of information literacy is often taken for granted. It was found that information verification skills such as simply Googling some new piece of information and not sharing it right away could prove beneficial in halting the spread of misinformation,” Khan said.

“In addition, information verification attitude greatly mattered,” he said.

Those who have a strong belief in the reliability of the information are more likely to share information online without verification, researchers said.

“Online users must possess an attitude of healthy scepticism when any information comes their way. Such an attitude of information verification by individuals can prove to be a major counterweight to the rising misinformation online,” Khan said.

While many respondents said that they felt it was important to share verified information, some do not have the media or information literacy to accurately assess whether the information they are sharing is in fact correct.

The study found that people from lower education levels, lower income and those newer to the internet would benefit most from learning additional information literacy.

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