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Abstract and Figures

˽ Though fact-checking services play an important role countering online disinformation, little is known about whether users actually trust or distrust them. ˽ The data we collected from social media discussions—on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, and discussion threads in online newspapers—reflects users’ opinions about fact-checking services. ˽ To strengthen trust, fact-checking services should strive to increase transparency in their processes, as well as in their organizations, and funding sources
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This is the authors' version of a paper published in Communications of the ACM. The reference for the final version is
as follows: Brandtzaeg, P. B., & Følstad, A. (2017). Trust and distrust in online fact-checking services.
Communications of the ACM, 60(9), 65-71. doi: 10.1145/3122803.
Trust and Distrust in Online Fact-Checking
Services
By Petter Bae Brandtzaeg and Asbjørn Følstad
While the Internet has the potential to give people ready access to relevant and factual information,
social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have made filtering and assessing online content
increasingly difficult due to its rapid flow and enormous volume. In fact, 49% of social media users
in the U.S. in 2012 received false breaking news through social media.[8] Likewise, a survey by
Silverman[11] suggested that in 2015 false rumors and misinformation disseminated further and
faster than ever before due to social media. Political analysts continue to discuss the growing
misinformation and fake news in social media and its effect on the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Such misinformation challenges the credibility of the Internet as a venue for public information and
debate. In response over the past five years, a proliferation of outlets has provided fact checking and
debunking of online content. Fact-checking services, say Kriplean et al.,[6] provide “… evaluation
of verifiable claims made in public statements through investigation of primary and secondary
sources.” An international census from 2017 counted 114 active fact-checking services, a 19%
increase from the previous year.[12] To benefit from this trend, Google News in 2016 let news
providers tag news articles or their content with fact-checking information “… to help readers find
fact checking in large news stories.”[3] Any organization may use the fact-checking tag, if it is non-
partisan, transparent, and targets a range of claims within an area of interest and not just one single
person or entity.
However, research in fact checking has scarcely paid attention to the general public’s view of fact-
checking services, focusing instead on how people’s beliefs and attitudes change in response to
facts that contradict their own pre-existing opinions. This research suggests fact checking in general
may be unsuccessful at reducing misperceptions, especially among the people most prone to believe
them.[9] People often ignore facts that contradict their current beliefs,[2,13] particularly in politics
and controversial social issues.[9] Consequently, the more political or controversial issues a fact-
checking service covers, the more it needs to build a reputation for usefulness and trustworthiness.
Research suggests the trustworthiness of fact-checking services depends on their origin and
ownership, which may affect integrity perceptions[10] and the transparency of their fact-checking
process.[4] Despite these observations, we are unaware of any research that has examined users
perceptions of fact-checking services. Addressing the gap in current knowledge, we investigated
this research question: How do social media users perceive the trustworthiness and usefulness of
fact-checking services?
Fact-checking services differ in terms of their organizational aim and funding,[10] as well as their
areas of concern,[11] that in turn may affect their trustworthiness. As outlined in Figure 1, the
universe of fact-checking services can be divided into three general categories based on their areas
of concern: political and public statements in general, corresponding to the fact checking of
politicians, as discussed by Nyhan and Reifler;[9] online rumors and hoaxes, reflecting the need for
debunking services, as discussed by Silverman;[11] and specific topics or controversies or
particular conflicts or narrowly scoped issues or events (such as the ongoing Ukraine conflict).
In our study, we focused on three services—Snopes, FactCheck.org, and StopFake—all included in
the Duke Reporters’ Lab’s online overview of fact checkers (http://reporterslab.org/fact-checking/).
They represent three categories of fact checkers, from online rumors to politics to a particular topic
of controversy, as in Figure 1, and differences in organization and funding. As a measure of their
popularity, as of June 20, 2017, Snopes had 561,650 likes on Facebook, FactCheck.org 806,814,
and StopFake 52,537.
We study Snopes because of its aim to debunk online rumors, fitting the first category in Figure 1.
This aim is shared by other such services, including HoaxBusters and the Swedish service
Viralgranskaren. Snopes is managed by a small volunteer organization emerging from a single-
person initiative and funded through advertising revenue.
We study FactCheck.org because it monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major figures in
politics. Other similar services include PolitiFact (U.S.) and Full Fact (U.K.) listed in the second
category in Figure 1. FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the
Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania in U.S. FactCheck.org is
supported by university funding and individual donors and has been a source of inspiration for other
fact-checking projects.
We study StopFake because it addresses a highly specific topic—the ongoing Ukraine conflict. It
thus resembles other highly focused fact-checking initiatives (such as #Refugeecheck, an initiative
to fact check reports on the refugee crises in Europe). StopFake is an initiative by the Kyiv Mohyla
Journalism School in Kiev, Ukraine, and thus a European-based service. Snopes and FactCheck.org
are U.S. based, like more than a third of the fact-checking services identified by Duke Reporters’
Lab.[12]
All three provide their fact checking through their own websites, as well as through Facebook and
Twitter. Figure 2 is an example of a Twitter post with content checked by Snopes.
Analyzing Social Media Conversations
To explore how social media users perceive the trustworthiness and usefulness of fact-checking
services, we applied a research approach designed to take advantage of unstructured social media
conversations (see Figure 3).
While investigations of trust and usefulness often rely on structured data from questionnaire-based
surveys, social media conversations represent a highly relevant data source for our purpose, as they
arguably reflect the raw, authentic perceptions of social media users. Xu et al.[16] claim it is
beneficial to listen to, analyze, and understand citizens’ opinions through social media to improve
societal decision-making processes and solutions. For example, Xu et al.[16] wrote, social media
analytics has been applied to explain, detect, and predict disease outbreaks, election results,
macroeconomic processes (such as crime detection), (… ) and financial markets (such as stock
price).”[16] Social media conversations take place in the everyday context of users likely to be
engaged in fact-checking services. This approach may provide a more unbiased view of people’s
perceptions than, say, a questionnaire-based approach. The benefit of gathering data from users in
their specific social media context does not imply that our data is representative. Our data lacks
important information about user demographics, limiting our ability to claim generality for the
entire user population. Despite this potential drawback, our data does offer new insight into how
social media users view the usefulness and trustworthiness of various categories of fact-checking
services.
For data collection, we used Meltwater Buzz, an established service for social media monitoring.
This service crawled data from social media conversations in blogs, discussion forums, online
newspaper discussion threads, Twitter, and Facebook. Meltwater Buzz is designed to crawl all blogs
(such as https://wordpress.com/), discussion forums (such as https://offtopic.com/), and online
newspapers (such as https://www.washingtonpost.com/) requested by Meltwater customers, thus
representing a convenience sample, albeit large. Meltwater Buzz collects various amounts of data
from each platform; for example, it crawls all posts on Twitter but only the Facebook pages with
3,500 likes or groups of more than 500 members. This limitation in Facebook data partly explains
why the overall number of posts we collected—1,741—was not very great.
To collect opinions about social media user perceptions of Snopes and FactCheck.org, we applied
the search term “[service name] is,” or “Snopes is,” “FactCheck.org is,” and “FactCheck is.” This
term was intended to reflect how people start a sentence when formulating opinions. StopFake is a
relatively less-known service. We thus selected a broader search string—“StopFake”—to be able to
collect enough relevant opinions. The searches returned a data corpus of 1,741 posts going back six
months in time—October 2014 to March 2015—as in Figure 3. By “posts,” we mean written
contributions by individual users. To create a sufficient dataset for analysis, we removed all
duplicates, including a small number of non-relevant posts lacking personal opinions about fact
checkers. This filtering process resulted in a dataset of 595 posts.
We then performed content analysis, coding all posts to identify and investigate patterns within the
data,[1] to reveal the perceptions users express in social media about the three fact-checking
services we investigated. We analyzed their perceptions of the usefulness of fact-checking services
through a usefulness construct similar to the one used by Tsakonas et al.[14] Hence, “usefulness”
concerns the extent the service is perceived as beneficial when doing a specific fact-checking task,
often illustrated by positive recommendations and characterizations (such as that the service is
“good” or “great”). Following Mayer et al.’s theoretical framework,[7] we categorized
trustworthiness according to the perceived ability, benevolence, and integrity of the fact-checking
services. “Ability” concerns the extent the service is perceived as having available the needed skills
and expertise, as well as being reputable and well regarded. “Benevolence” refers to the extent the
service is perceived as intending to do good, beyond what would be expected from an egocentric
motive. “Integrity targets the extent the service is generally viewed as adhering to an acceptable set
of principles, in particular being independent, unbiased, and fair.
Since we found posts typically reflect rather polarized perceptions of the studied fact-checking
services, we also grouped the codes manually according to sentiment, whether positive or negative.
However, some posts describe the services in a plain and objective manner. We thus coded them
using a positive sentiment (see Table 1) because they refer to the service as a source for fact
checking, and users are likely to reference fact-checking sites because they see them as useful.
For reliability, both researchers in this study did the coding. One coded all the posts, and the second
then went through all the assigned codes, a process that was repeated twice. Finally, both
researchers went through all comments for which an alternative code had been suggested to decide
on the final coding, a process that recommended an alternative coding for 153 posts (26%).
A post could include more than one of the analytical themes, so 30% of the posts were thus coded
as addressing two or more themes.
Results
Despite the potential benefits of fact-checking services, Figure 4 shows that the majority of the
posts on the two U.S.-based services expressed negative sentiment, with Snopes at 68% and
FactCheck.org at 58%. Most posts on the Ukraine-based StopFake (78%) reflected positive
sentiment.
The stated reasons for negative sentiment typically concerned one or more of the trustworthiness
themes rather than usefulness. For example, for Snopes and FactCheck.org, the negative posts often
expressed concern over lack in integrity due to perceived bias toward the political left. Negative
sentiment pertaining to the ability and benevolence of the services were also common. The few
critical comments on usefulness were typically aimed at discrediting a service, as by, say,
characterizing it as “satirical” or “a joke.”
Positive posts were more often related to usefulness. For example, the stated reasons for positive
sentiment toward StopFake typically concerned the service’s usefulness in countering pro-Russian
propaganda and trolling and in the information war associated with the ongoing Ukraine conflict.
In line with a general notion of an increasing need to interpret and act on information and
misinformation in social media,[6,11] some users in our study discussed fact-checking sites as
important elements of an information war.
Snopes. The examples in Table 2 reflect how negative sentiment in the posts we analyzed on
Snopes was rooted in issues pertaining to trustworthiness. Integrity issues typically involved a
perceived “left-leaning” political bias in the people behind the service. Pertaining to benevolence,
users in our study said Snopes is part of a larger left-leaning, or liberal,” conspiracy often claimed
to be funded by George Soros, whereas comments on ability typically targeted lack of expertise in
the people running the service. Some negative comments on trustworthiness may be seen as a
rhetorical means of discrediting the service. Posts expressing positive sentiment mainly argued for
the usefulness of the service, claiming that Snopes is a useful resource for checking up on the
veracity of Internet rumors.
FactCheck.org. The patterns in the posts we analyzed for FactCheck.org resemble those for
Snopes. As in Table 3, the most frequently mentioned trustworthiness concerns related to service
integrity; as for Snopes, users said the service was politically biased toward the left. Posts
concerning benevolence and ability were also relatively frequent, reflecting user concern regarding
the service as a contributor to propaganda or doubts about its fact-checking practices.
StopFake. As in Table 4, the results for StopFake show more posts expressing positive sentiment
than we found for Snopes and FactCheck.org. In particular, the posts in the study pointed out that
StopFake helps debunk rumors seen as Russian propaganda in the Ukraine conflict.
Nevertheless, the general pattern in the reasons users gave us for positive and negative sentiment for
Snopes and FactCheck.org also held for StopFake. The positive posts were typically motivated by
usefulness, whereas the negative posts reflected the sentiment that StopFake is politically biased
(“integrity), a “fraud,” a “hoax,” or part of Ukraine propaganda machinery (“benevolence”).
Discussion
We found users in the study with positive perceptions typically extol the usefulness of fact-checking
services, whereas users with negative opinions cited trust issues. This pattern emerged across the
three different services. In the following sections, we discuss how these findings provide new
insight into trustworthiness as a key challenge when countering online rumors and
misinformation[2,9] and why ill-founded beliefs may have such online reach, even though the
beliefs are corrected by such prominent fact checkers as Snopes, FactCheck.org, and StopFake.
Usefulness. Users in our sample with a positive view of the services mainly pointed to their
usefulness. While everyone should exercise caution when comparing the different fact checkers,
topic-specific StopFake is perceived as more useful than Snopes and FactCheck.org. One reason
might be that a service targeting a specific topic faces less criticism because it attracts a particular
audience that seeks facts supporting their own view. For example, StopFake users target anti-
Russian and pro-Ukrainian readers. Another, more general, reason might be positive perceptions are
motivated by user needs pertaining to a perceived high load of misinformation, as in the case of the
Ukraine conflict, where media reports and social media are seen as overflowing with propaganda.
Others highlighted the general ease information may be filtered or separated from misinformation
through sites like Snopes and FactCheck.org, as expressed like this:
“As you pointed out, it doesn’t take that much effort to see if something on the Internet is legit, and
Snopes is a great place to start. So why not take that few seconds of extra effort to do that, rather
than creating and sharing misleading items.
This finding suggests there is an increasing demand for fact-checking services,[6] while at the same
time a substantial proportion of social media users who would benefit from fact-checking services
do not use them sufficiently. Such services should thus be even more active on social media sites
like Facebook and Twitter, as well as in online discussion forums, where easy access to fact
checking is needed.
Trustworthiness. Negative perceptions and opinions about fact-checking services seem to be
motivated by basic distrust rather than by rational argument. For some users in our sample, lack of
trust extends beyond a particular service to encompass the entire social and political system. Users
with negative perceptions thus seem trapped in a perpetual state of informational disbelief.
While one’s initial response to statements reflecting a state of informational disbelief may be to
dismiss them as the uninformed paranoia of a minority of the public, the statements should instead
be viewed as a source of user insight. The reason fact-checking services are often unsuccessful in
reducing ill-founded perceptions[9] and people tend to disregard fact checking that goes against
their pre-existing beliefs[2,13] may be a lack of basic trust rather than a lack of fact-based
arguments provided by the services.
We found such distrust is often highly emotional. In line with Silverman,[11] fact-checking sites
must be able to recognize how debunking and fact checking evoke emotion in their users. Hence,
the services may benefit from rethinking the way they design and present themselves to strengthen
trust among users in a general state of informational disbelief. Moreover, users of online fact-
checking sites need to compensate for the lack of physical evidence online by, say, being
demonstrably independent, impartial, and able to clearly distinguish fact from opinion.
Rogerson[10] wrote that fact-checking sites exhibit varying levels of rigor and effectiveness. The
fact-checking process and even what are considered “facts” may in some cases involve subjective
interpretation, especially when actors with partial ties aim to provide fact-checking services. For
example, in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, the organization “Donald J. Trump for President
invited Trump supporters to join a fact-check initiative, similar to the category “topics or
controversies,” urging fact checking” the presidential debates on social media. However, the
initiative was criticized as mainly promoting Trump’s views and candidacy.[5]
Important questions users of fact-checking sites ask include: Who does the fact checking and how
do they do it? What organizations are behind the process? And how does the nature of the
organization influence the results of the fact checking? Fact-checking sites must thus explicate the
nuanced, detailed process leading to the presented result while keeping it simple enough to be
understandable and useful.[11]
Need for transparency. While fact-checker trustworthiness is critical, fact checkers represent but
one set of voices in the information landscape and cannot be expected to be benevolent and
unbiased just by virtue of their checking facts. Rather, fact-checking services, more than other types
of information service must strive for transparency in their working process, as well as in their
origins, organization, and funding sources.
To increase transparency in fact-checking processes, a service might try to take a more horizontal,
collaborative approach than is typically seen in today’s generation of services. Following Hermida’s
recommendation[4] for social media journalists, fact checkers could be set up as platforms for
collaborative verification and fact checking, relying less on centralized expertise. Forming an
interactive relationship with users may also help build trust.[6,7]
Conclusion
We identified a lack of perceived trustworthiness and a state of informational disbelief as potential
obstacles to fact-checking services reaching social media users most critical to such services. Table
5 summarizes our overall findings and discussions, outlining related key challenges and our
recommendations for how to address them.
Given the exploratory nature of the study, we cannot conclude that our findings are valid for all
fact-checking services. In addition, more research is needed to make definite claims on systematic
differences between various forms of fact checkers based on their “areas of concern.Nevertheless,
the consistent pattern in opinions we found across three prominent fact-checking services suggests
challenges and recommendations that can provide useful guidance for future development in this
important area.
Acknowledgments
This work was supported by the European Commission co-funded FP 7 project REVEAL (Project
No. FP7-610928, http://www.revealproject.eu/) but does not necessarily represent the views of the
European Commission. We also thank Marika Lüders of the University of Oslo and three
anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments.
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Petter Bae Brandtzaeg (pbb@sintef.no) is a senior research scientist at SINTEF in Oslo, Norway.
Asbjørn Følstad (asf@sintef.no) is a senior research scientist at SINTEF in Oslo, Norway
Fact-checking services areas of concern
Political and public
claims
Specific topics or
controversies
FactCheck.org
PolitiFact
The Washington Post
Fact Checker
CNN Reality Check
Full Fact
StopeFake
Tru thBeTo ld
#RefugeeCheck
Climate Feedback
Brown Moses Blog
(continued as Bellingcat)
Online rumors and
hoaxes
Snopes.com
Hoax-Slayer
ThruthOrFiction.com
HoaxBusters
Viralgranskaren -Metro
Figure 1. Categorization of fact-checking services based on areas of concern.
Figure 2. Example of Snopes debunking a social media rumor on Twitter (March 6, 2016);
https://twitter.com/snopes/status/706545708233396225
Figure 3. Outline of our research approach; posts collected October 2014 to March 2015.
Figure 4. Positive and negative posts related to trustworthiness and usefulness per fact-checking
service (in %); “other” refers to posts not relevant for the researching categories (N = 595 posts).
Theme Sentiment The service described as
Usefulness Positive Useful, serving the purpose of fact-checking.
Negative Not as useful, often in a derogatory manner.
Ability Positive Reputable, expert, or acclaimed.
Negative Lacking in expertise or credibility.
Benevolence Positive Aiming for a greater (social) good.
Negative Suspected of (social) ill-doing (such as through conspiracy, propaganda, or fraud)
Integrity Positive Independent or impartial.
Negative Dependent, partial, or politically biased.
Table 1. Coding scheme we used to analyze the data.
Theme Sentiment Example
Usefulness Positive
(21%)
Snopes is a wonderful Website for verifying things you see online; it is at least a
starting point for research.
Negative
(10%)
Snopes is a joke. Look at its Boston bombing debunking failing to debunking the worst
hoax ever ...
Ability Positive
(6%)
[…] Snopes is a respectable source for debunking wives tails, urban legends, even
medical myths ...
Negative
(24%)
Heh... Snopes is a man and a woman with no investigative background or credentials
who form their opinions solely on internet research; they don’t interview anyone. […]
Benevolence Positive
(0%)
No posts
Negative
(21%)
You are showing your Ignorance by using Snopes … SNOPES is a NWO Disinformation
System designed to fool the Masses ... SORRY. I Believe NOTHING from Snopes.
Snopes is a Disinformation vehicle of the Elitist NWO Globalists. Believe NOTHING
from them... […]
Integrity Positive
(2%)
Snopes is a standard, rather dull fact-checking site, nailing right and left equally. […]
Negative
(44%)
Snopes is a leftist outlet supported with money from George Soros. Whatever Snopes
says I take with a grain of salt ...
Table 2. Snopes and themes we analyzed (n = 385).
Theme Sentiment Example
Usefulness Positive
(25%)
[…] You obviously haven’t listened to what they say. Also, I hate liars. Fact check is a
great tool.
Negative
(3%)
Anyway, "FactCheck" is a joke […]
Ability Positive
(6%)
The media sources I use must pass a high credibility bar. FactCheck.org is just one of
the resources I use to validate what I read....
Negative
(16%)
[…] FactCheck is NOT a confidence builder; see their rider and sources, Huffpo
articles … REALLY?
Benevolence Positive
(0%)
No posts.
Negative
(25%)
FactCheck studies the factual correctness of what major players in U.S. politics say in
TV commercials, debates, talks, interviews, and news presentations, then tries to
present a best possible fictional and propaganda-like version for its target […]
Integrity Positive
(19%)
When you don’t like the message, blame the messenger. FactCheck is non-partisan.
It's just that conservatives either lie or are mistaken more ...
Negative
(39%)
FactCheck is a left-leaning opinion. It doesn’t check facts ...
Table 3. FactCheck.org and themes we analyzed (n = 80).
Theme Sentiment Example
Usefulness Positive
(72%)
Don’t forget a strategic weapon of the Kremlin is the “web of lies” spread by its
propaganda machine; see antidote http://www.stopfake.org/en/news
Negative
(2%)
[…] Stopfake! HaHaHa. You won, I give up. Next time I will quote ‘Saturday Night Live’;
there is more truth:))...
Ability Positive
(2%)
[…] by the way the website StopFake.org is a very objective and accurate source
exposing Russian propaganda and disinformation techniques. […]*
Negative
(2%)
[…] Ha Ha … a flow of lies is constantly sent out from the Kremlin. Really. If so,
StopFake needs updates every hour, but the best way it can do that is to find low-
grade blog content and make it appear as if it was produced by Russian media […]
Benevolence Positive
(4%)
[…] Stopfake is devoted to exposing Russian propaganda against the Ukraine. […]
Negative
(14%)
So now you acknowledge Stopfake is part of Kiev’s propaganda. I guess that answers
my question […]
Integrity Positive
(2%)
[…] by the way the website StopFake.org is
a very objective and accurate source
exposing Russian propaganda and disinformation techniques. […]
Negative
(11%)
[…] Why should I give any credence to StopFake.org? Does it ever criticize the Kiev
regime, in favor of the Donbass position? […]
Table 4. StopFake and themes we analyzed (n = 130); note * also coded as integrity/positive.
Challenges Recommendations
Usefulness
Unrealized potential in
public use of fact-
checking services
Increase presence in social media and
discussion forums
Trustworthiness
Ability Critique of expertise and
reputation
Provide nuanced but simple overview of the
fact-checking process where relevant sources
are included
Benevolence
Suspicion of conspiracy
and
propaganda
Establish open policy on fact checking and
open spaces for collaboration on fact checking
Integrity Perception of bias and
partiality
Ensure transparency on organization and
funding. And demonstrable impartiality in
fact-checking process
Table 5. Challenges and our related recommendations for fact-checking services.
... Once the system has evaluated an claim for truthfulness, the question arises as to the interpretability of this evaluation (Bhatt et al., 2020;Zhang et al., 2021). This lack of knowledge of this largely creates user distrust, as the system consequently lacks transparency (Brandtzaeg and Følstad, 2017). Therefore, the artifact should give the possibility to give a proof of the posed truthfulness of the claim. ...
... When validating claims, the most effortless overview possible should be ensured in or-der to (effectively) comprehend the evidence (Brandtzaeg and Følstad, 2017). If an evidence contains a huge amount of information, effective validation of it is a major challenge for users (Lee et al., 2016). ...
... To ensure a certain transparency, it is first important to display not only the headline of an article, but also the content of the article. This transparency can be achieved through a simple overview of crucial aspects in the fact-checking process (Brandtzaeg and Følstad, 2017). By doing this, an efficiency is created during the review and the user can thereby create a more accurate opinion about the credibility of an claim. ...
Thesis
Involving stakeholders in the design and evaluation of AI-infused systems improves user's trust in the model's predictions and ensures accountability, fairness, and transparency. Some media outlets have employed AI-based solutions to address the issue of misinformation. In this study, we identified the problem of misinformation, generated a set of challenges, and developed a set of design principles and features for creating XAI system(s) that include user feedback. We utilized the DSR technique as outlined by (Hevner, 2007a). Throughout the relevance cycle, we found a set of difficulties that influenced the design requirements we used to create the DPs and DFs. We finished a first design cycle in which we instantiated a design prototype based on our design principles and features. Researchers evaluated our prototype design qualitatively, resulting in a favourable impression of the design as well as its utility in the context in which we describe it. our findings highlight multiple research opportunities for Human-Interactive XAI and give significant design information for future work in academia and practice.
... For example, Facebook applies different algorithms to identify and stop the fake content being spread, at the same time the company partners with third-party fact-checkers to identify and label posts related to misinformation (Allcott et al., 2019). Various studies have shown both the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of fact-checking with respect to correcting misinformation, factchecker trustworthiness, and labelling posts on social media containing candidate evaluations (Brandtzaeg & Følstad, 2017;Freelon & Wells, 2020;Nyhan & Reifler, 2015;Oeldorf-Hirsch et al., 2020;Wintersieck, 2017). ...
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This study investigates the dynamics and dissemination of political misinformation in India's 2019 national election campaign, drawing on cases identified by internationally verified fact-checkers. Many political parties and their affiliates or supporters deployed both positive (pro-party) and negative (anti-party) misinformation claims. The distribution of measures of engagement with misinformation claims on Facebook (N=4,478) show BJP, INC and CPIM were most often deploying positive or pro-party misinformation, whereas more parties were targeted with negative or anti-party misinformation. The incumbent BJP was the target of the largest number of negative misinformation claims that came from challenger parties and the INC in particular, confirming extant research from Western contexts that challengers go negative and attack incumbents while the latter tend to focus more on accomplishments. Negative or anti-party misinformation was deployed more than twice as often as pro-party misinformation and diffused farther than positive or pro-party claims.
... Allegations of bias could undermine confidence in these initiatives (Pingree et al. 2018;Uscinski and Butler 2013), to the point of being perceived 'as partisan actors in a divided media system' (Robertson et al. 2020: 234). These perspectives are essential in understanding verification practices, as dealing with more politically contentious and controversial issues requires more effort and prior work that would facilitate building a solid reputation (Brandtzaeg and Følstad 2017). ...
Article
The purpose of this article is to analyse the perceptions, social discourses and practices regarding the verification processes of the information consumed in the context of the information disorder that societies are experiencing. To do this, we created seven discussion groups structured around the variables age, position in the social structure and political ideology. We found that (1) there is a shared perception about how disinformation compromises one of the basic pillars of democracy; (2) this perception contradicts the few practices used to verify the information consumed; (3) macro-structural changes that generate a climate of less polarization, more critical education and regulation of information practices are put forward as solutions to disinformation and the circulation of false information.
... Credibility Identification. For users to trust MISVIS's visualizations about websites that they may visit (or to turn away from, as they spread false information), it is important for MIS-VIS to maintain high credibility [8,19]. We design MISVIS to be transparent and neutral in terms of website reliability labels. ...
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Preprint
As the information on the Internet continues growing exponentially, understanding and assessing the reliability of a website is becoming increasingly important. Misinformation has far-ranging repercussions, from sowing mistrust in media to undermining democratic elections. While some research investigates how to alert people to misinformation on the web, much less research has been conducted on explaining how websites engage in spreading false information. To fill the research gap, we present MisVis, a web-based interactive visualization tool that helps users assess a website's reliability by understanding how it engages in spreading false information on the World Wide Web. MisVis visualizes the hyperlink connectivity of the website and summarizes key characteristics of the Twitter accounts that mention the site. A large-scale user study with 139 participants demonstrates that MisVis facilitates users to assess and understand false information on the web and node-link diagrams can be used to communicate with non-experts. MisVis is available at the public demo link: https://poloclub.github.io/MisVis.
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Fact-checking is a relatively recent journalistic genre in Portugal that has been growing in recent years, alternately viewed as a journalism reform movement or criticized as inefficient and idealistic. Our study is a comparative analysis of the output of the Portuguese fact-checkers Observador and Polígrafo in the 2019–2022 elections to determine whether their coverage is politically biased. Performing a quantitative content analysis of all fact-checking articles on national politics (n = 265) published during the campaign for the parliamentary elections, our results show that fact-checking activity has increased in the last elections. These data may indicate that fact-checking agencies have increased their capacity and resources, but may also suggest a greater presence of subjectivity and deception in Portuguese political discourse. The focus of Portuguese fact-checkers is statements produced during political debates (70%), while social media verification is disregarded. Our most significant finding is the lack of evidence of partisan or political bias in the selection of the assessed statements. Both fact-checkers do not show a tendency to check statements that are more or less anti- or pro-government and/or statements that are ideologically favorable to the left wing or the right wing. Therefore, our findings confirm the high level of professionalism and impartiality of Portuguese fact-checkers evidenced in other studies, and demonstrate that the Portuguese citizen’s skepticism toward the practice has no foundation.
Article
How do the reasons people post misinformation affect how they respond to fact checking interventions? In this research, we conducted a qualitative study of people who shared misinformation. We started with stories marked as false by a popular fact checker, Snopes, and identified people who posted those stories on Reddit. We interviewed the posters about the story they shared and their five behaviorally distinct personas: Reason to Disagree, Changed Belief, Steadfast Non-Standard Belief, Sharing to Debunk, and Sharing for Humor. Our findings suggest that research to craft better interventions to counter misinformation might benefit from tailoring to specific personas that can serve as design tools for on-going misinformation intervention research.
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Searching for Trust explores the intersection of trust, disinformation, and blockchain technology in an age of heightened institutional and epistemic mistrust. It adopts a unique archival theoretic lens to delve into how computational information processing has gradually supplanted traditional record keeping, putting at risk a centuries-old tradition of the 'moral defense of the record' and replacing it with a dominant ethos of information-processing efficiency. The author argues that focusing on information-processing efficiency over the defense of records against manipulation and corruption (the ancient task of the recordkeeper) has contributed to a diminution of the trustworthiness of information and a rise of disinformation, with attendant destabilization of the epistemic trust fabric of societies. Readers are asked to consider the potential and limitations of blockchains as the technological embodiment of the moral defense of the record and as means to restoring societal trust in an age of disinformation.
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This study aims to investigate why a remarkable number of fact-checking organizations go beyond "fact-checking" and directly involve Media and Information Literacy (MIL) initiatives and delve into their practices, strategies, and challenges. A qualitative research design was adopted via interviews combined with online observations conducted between January and October 2021, with 12 practitioners from 8 different organizations around the world. Fact-checkers aim to inoculate the public against false information flow and build resilience via educational strategies. They also work within the educational system and mobilize volunteer teachers as proxies to disseminate the knowledge to a wider public. The results indicated that when fact-checking organizations involve educational projects with a politically neutral stance, they attract funds from NGOs, tech companies, and sometimes from governments. Thus, it brings an opportunity to widen the social reach and strengthen their separate education departments by employing more educators and translators.
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Article
Purpose Fact-checking has been changing in recent years from an initial stage in which fact-checkers were more concerned with political discourse to a stage in which combating misinformation becomes the primary purpose. This work examines more closely the standardizing and the customizing aspects of active fact-checking outlets in Portuguese-speaking countries, focusing on the verification methods and organizational models in use. Design/methodology/approach Based on Content Analysis, we collected manually 318 posts during June 2019 from each fact-checking outlets website and then examined each post according to six general concepts: discourse, sources, context, classification, graphic representation, and financing. There were 15 active fact-checking outlets in Brazil (13) and Portugal (2). No active outlets were found in the African countries. Findings Although there is room for inventiveness in fact-checking practices, it is restricted to the classification models adopted and the graphic representation demanded by them. Only two largest Portuguese-speaking countries (Brazil and Portugal) have active fact-checking initiatives during the study period. In Mozambique, we found the outlet named Mozcheck that was inactive with no published content during the research period. From our analysis, we detected a pattern between the type of misinformation and the media to which it is most often linked: false information was circulated mainly in texts, while false contexts were mainly circulated in videos and images led to more manipulated content. In addition, in relation to the sources used to verification of the content, we noticed a large volume of posts relied only on sources came from contacts with press offices – this was especially true for political issues. Practical implications The analyzed data indicates that the standardization tendencies are related to the connection of these initiatives with traditional media. While the contrasting aspects of the fact-checking practices are related to the classification models and the graphic representation created by the outlets. Social implications It indicates that fact-checking outlets is still tied to traditional media in terms of its organizational and institutional business model. Inventiveness and innovation are restricted to the practice of fact-checking conducted by journalists and other professionals. Originality/value This is the first study to compare the practice of fact-checking in Portuguese-speaking countries and, besides looking at aspects of journalistic practice, it also seeks to analyze organizational elements of fact-checking outlets.
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THE SPORTS INDUSTRY is big business globally and domestically;10 for example, the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association (NBA) generated $287 million in revenue in 2013.2 In order for sports organizations to maximize their financial performance, they must win on the court. The operational staffs, including coaches and general managers, must consistently make the right decisions despite many constraints, including a league-imposed salary cap and team budgets. Sports analytics plays an increasingly important role in such decisions. Sports analytics traditionally involves statistical techniques for analyzing historical player performance. General managers have used it to build their rosters and coaches have used it in conjunction with their domain knowledge to adjust lineups and improve players' on-court performance. Though ongoing sports analytics research and practices center mostly on the structured data of player profiles and historical performance,1 this article explores the extent NBA teams can use "unstructured" social media data to further their sports analytics efforts. This novel focus is motivated by the prevalence of social media analytics in all kinds of business domains over the past five years. Specifically, our objective is to show how NBA players' pre-game emotional state, as captured through their tweets, or the messages they post on Twitter, before a game can help predict on-court performance in the game.
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This paper examines how social media are influencing the core journalistic value of verification. Through the discipline of verification, the journalist establishes jurisdiction over the ability to objectively parse reality to claim a special kind of authority and status. Social media question the individualistic, top-down ideology of traditional journalism. The paper considers journalism practices as a set of literacies, drawing on the theoretical framework of new literacies to examine the shift from a focus on individual intelligence, where expertise and authority are located in individuals and institutions, to a focus on collective intelligence where expertise and authority are distributed and networked. It explores how news organizations are negotiating the tensions inherent in a transition to a digital, networked media environment, considering how journalism is evolving into a tentative and iterative process where contested accounts are examined and evaluated in public in real-time.
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An extensive literature addresses citizen ignorance, but very little research focuses on misperceptions. Can these false or unsubstantiated beliefs about politics be corrected? Previous studies have not tested the efficacy of corrections in a realistic format. We conducted four experiments in which subjects read mock news articles that included either a misleading claim from a politician, or a misleading claim and a correction. Results indicate that corrections frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group. We also document several instances of a “backfire effect” in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question. KeywordsMisperceptions-Misinformation-Ignorance-Knowledge-Correction-Backfire
Article
With the growing possibilities for conducting web surveys, researchers increasingly use such surveys to recruit student samples for research purposes in a wide array of social science disciplines. Simultaneously, higher education students are recurrently asked to complete course and teacher evaluations online and to participate in small-scale research projects of fellow students, potentially leading to survey fatigue among student populations across the globe. One of the most frequently reported effects of over-surveying is a decrease in overall response rates. This situation has significant impacts on the generalizability and external validity of findings based on web surveys. The collection of reliable data is, nevertheless, crucial for researchers as well as educational practitioners and administrators, and strategies should be developed for achieving acceptable response rates. This paper reports on a methodological experiment (N = 15,651) conducted at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, in which possible strategies to improve survey response are explored. I specifically focus on the impact of an extra reminder as well as specific reminder contents on response rates. The results reveal that extra reminders are effective for increasing response rates, but not for diversifying the sample.
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We propose that people may gain certain "offensive" and "defensive" advantages for their cherished belief systems (e.g., religious and political views) by including aspects of unfalsifiability in those belief systems, such that some aspects of the beliefs cannot be tested empirically and conclusively refuted. This may seem peculiar, irrational, or at least undesirable to many people because it is assumed that the primary purpose of a belief is to know objective truth. However, past research suggests that accuracy is only one psychological motivation among many, and falsifiability or testability may be less important when the purpose of a belief serves other psychological motives (e.g., to maintain one's worldviews, serve an identity). In Experiments 1 and 2 we demonstrate the "offensive" function of unfalsifiability: that it allows religious adherents to hold their beliefs with more conviction and political partisans to polarize and criticize their opponents more extremely. Next we demonstrate unfalsifiability's "defensive" function: When facts threaten their worldviews, religious participants frame specific reasons for their beliefs in more unfalsifiable terms (Experiment 3) and political partisans construe political issues as more unfalsifiable ("moral opinion") instead of falsifiable ("a matter of facts"; Experiment 4). We conclude by discussing how in a world where beliefs and ideas are becoming more easily testable by data, unfalsifiability might be an attractive aspect to include in one's belief systems, and how unfalsifiability may contribute to polarization, intractability, and the marginalization of science in public discourse. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
Conference Paper
Public dialogue plays a key role in democratic society. Such dialogue often contains factual claims, but participants and readers are left wondering what to believe, particularly when contributions to such dialogue come from a broad spectrum of the public. We explore the design space for introducing authoritative information into public dialogue, with the goal of supporting constructive rather than confrontational discourse. We also present a specific design and realization of an archetypal sociotechnical system of this kind, namely an on-demand fact-checking service integrated into a crowdsourced voters guide powered by deliberating citizens. The fact-checking service was co-designed with and staffed by professional librarians. Our evaluation examines the service from the perspectives of both users and librarians.
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Scholars in various disciplines have considered the causes, nature, and effects of trust. Prior approaches to studying trust are considered, including characteristics of the trustor, the trustee, and the role of risk. A definition of trust and a model of its antecedents and outcomes are presented, which integrate research from multiple disciplines and differentiate trust from similar constructs. Several research propositions based on the model are presented.
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Today, people have ample opportunity to engage in selective exposure, the selection of information matching their beliefs. Whether this is occurring, however, is a matter of debate. While some worry that people increasingly are seeking out likeminded views, others propose that newer media provide an increased opportunity for exposure to diverse views. In returning to the concept of selective exposure, this article argues that certain topics, such as politics, are more likely to inspire selective exposure and that research should investigate habitual media exposure patterns, as opposed to single exposure decisions. This study investigates whether different media types (newspapers, political talk radio, cable news, and Internet) are more likely to inspire selective exposure. Using data from the 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey, evidence supports the idea that people’s political beliefs are related to their media exposure—a pattern that persists across media types. Over-time analyses suggest that people’s political beliefs motivate their media use patterns and that cable news audiences became increasingly politically divided over the course of the 2004 election.
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Advances in the publishing world have emerged new models of digital library development. Open access publishing modes are expanding their presence and realize the digital library idea in various means. While user-centered evaluation of digital libraries has drawn considerable attention during the last years, these systems are currently viewed from the publishing, economic and scientometric perspectives. The present study explores the concepts of usefulness and usability in the evaluation of an e-print archive. The results demonstrate that several attributes of usefulness, such as the level and the relevance of information, and usability, such as easiness of use and learnability, as well as functionalities commonly met in these systems, affect user interaction and satisfaction.