Why ‘Doing Your Own Research’ May Make You Believe Fake News
In an age in which misinformation abounds, how do you determine what is real and what is fake? New research suggests telling truth from fiction may be more difficult that many people realise.
Following a series of experiments, a team of U.S. researchers found that study participants were consistently 19% more likely to believe “fake news” after they had performed an online search to figure out the truth.
That’s important, the experts say, because the prevalence and success of such misinformation poses a direct threat to democracy.
Kevin Aslett, assistant professor in the School of Politics, Security and International Affairs at the University of Central Florida, and a lead author of the paper published this week in Nature, explains.
“In terms of political consequences, increased belief in misinformation has the potential to increase political cynicism and apathy towards politics, lower trust in reliable media sources, increase polarization [and] motivate political violence,” Aslett tells me. He references the events of January 6, 2021, in which a mob attacked the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., saying “these consequences weaken democracy.”
The author of this article, David Vetter, describes himself thus:
David’s key interests are in climate change and sustainable systems. A veteran journalist, he recently completed an MSc in Sustainability, Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford.
You’re free to follow your own guidelines, but if someone who bills himself that way were to tell me that the sky is blue, I’d run outside to check. I can’t reproduce the whole article here – fair use provisions would not permit it – so if you have access to it, note all the “giveaway” words and phrases it uses:
- fake news
- vaccine misinformation
- climate action
- renewable energy
- threat to democracy
I’ll continue to do my own research and trust my own judgment – especially about politically polarizing subjects. I’ve learned that you can’t trust a David Vetter on subjects such as “sustainability” and “climate change.” But given that, on what subjects could you trust him?