Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter provide a lot of information to people, but it's getting harder and harder to say what is real and what is not.
Researchers at the University of Washington wanted to find out how people investigate potentially suspicious messages on their own channels. The team watched 25 members scroll their feeds on Facebook or Twitter, while, without their knowledge, the Google Chrome extension randomly adds debunked content on top of some real posts. Participants met various reactions to fake messages: some directly ignored this, some perceived it as a clean coin, some examined whether it was true, and some were suspicious of it, but then preferred to ignore it. These results were accepted at the 2020 ACM CHI conference “The Human Factor in Computing Systems”.
“We wanted to understand what people do when they encounter fake news or misinformation in their channels. Do they notice this? What do they do with it? ”, Says senior writer Francis Rosner, associate professor at UW School of Computer Science and Engineering. Paul Allen. "There are many people who are trying to be good consumers of information, and they are struggling." If we can understand what these people are doing, we can develop tools that can help them. ”
A previous study of how people interact with disinformation asked participants to examine content from an account created by the researcher, and not from someone they decided to follow.
“It can make people automatically suspicious,” said lead author Kristina Jeng, a UW doctoral student at Allen’s school. “We made sure all the messages looked as if they came from people that our members were following.”
Researchers recruited participants aged 18 to 74 from all over Seattle, explaining that the team was interested in seeing how people use social networks. Participants used Twitter or Facebook at least once a week and often used social networking platforms on a laptop.
The team then developed a Chrome extension that would randomly add fake messages or memes that were denied by the validating website Snopes.com on top of real messages to temporarily show that they were shared by people in member feeds. Thus, instead of seeing a cousin about a recent vacation, the participant will see that his cousin shared one of the fake stories.
Researchers either installed the extension on the participant’s laptop, or the participant logged into their accounts on the researcher’s laptop, for which the extension was enabled. The team told the participants that the extension would change their channels – the researchers did not say how – and would track their likes and actions during the study – although, in fact, it did not track anything. The extension was removed from participants' laptops at the end of the study.
“We would like them to scroll through their channels with active expansion,” said Jeng. “I told them to think out loud about what they are doing or what they will do if they find themselves in a situation when I am not in the room. Then people said: “Oh yes, I would read this article” or “I would skip this. & # 39; Sometimes I asked questions like: “Why are you missing this? Why do you like it? ”
Members could not actually love or share fake messages. On Twitter, “retweets” will share real content under a fake post. Once a participant retweeted content under a fake post, researchers helped him cancel it after completing the study. On Facebook, the Like and Share buttons do not work at all.
After participants met with all the fake messages – nine for Facebook and seven for Twitter – the researchers stopped the study and explained what was happening.
"It was not like we said:" Hey, there were fake posts. " We said: “It is hard to detect misinformation. Here were all the fake posts you just saw. These were fake messages, and your friends didn’t publish them, ”said Jeng. “Our goal was not to fool the participants or make them feel exposed. We wanted to normalize the complexity of determining what is fake and what is not. ”
Researchers completed the interview by asking participants to tell what types of strategies they use to detect misinformation.
In general, the researchers found that participants ignored many posts, especially those that they considered too long, overly political, or not related to them.
But certain types of messages made the participants skeptical. For example, people noticed when a message doesn’t match someone’s regular content. Sometimes participants examined suspicious posts — looking at who posted them, evaluating the source of the content, or reading the comments under the post — and sometimes people just scrolled through them.
“I'm interested in times when people are skeptical, but then decide not to investigate. Do they still somehow incorporate this into their worldview? ” Rosner said. “At a time when someone can say:“ This is an advertisement. I'm going to ignore it. ” But then they remember something about the content and forget that it was from a missed ad? This is what we are trying to learn more now. ”
Although this study was small, it does provide insight into how people respond to misinformation on social networks. Researchers can now use this as a starting point to look for interventions to help people resist misinformation in their channels.
“The participants had these powerful models of what their channels and people usually were on their social network. They noticed when it was strange. And that surprised me a little, ”said Rosner. “It is easy to say that we need to create these social media platforms so that people are not confused by fake messages. But I think that designers have the opportunity to attract people and their understanding of their own networks for better design. social networks platform. "
DOI: 10.1145 / 3313831.3376784
University of Washington
How people investigate – or don't – fake news on Twitter and Facebook (2020, March 18)
restored March 18, 2020
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