Thursday, 9th of January 2020, 12:00 – 1:00

The Effectiveness of Fake News Flags on Social Media Platforms

SR1, ICT Building,
Technikerstraße 21a, 6020 Innsbruck

Katrin Figl
WI, University of Innsbruck


Social media platforms have no direct control over the production process of their content; therefore, it is crucial for platforms to respond effectively to accusations of distributing fake news. Since fake news are mainly distributed by humans and not by bots, the current quasi-experiment investigates to what extent fake news flags influence the perception of the credibility of social media posts and how fake news flags can be made more effective. Based on a data set of 240 participants using fabricated Facebook posts on political news, the results show that fake news flags have an effective warning effect, but the "implicit truth effect" was not replicated (tagging some fake news headlines did not have the unintended side effect that untagged headlines were considered more accurate). The experiment also tested the semantic priming effect of various fake news flags. For example, a semantic association of a fake news flag with stop behavior (e.g. a stop sign) increased the time spent on a social media post with fake news. Another result was that users engaged more often with social media posts (e.g. shared or liked them) on smartphones than when using a PC, although they spent less time with the posts on a smartphone than when using a PC. The results may help inform policy decisions of social media platforms and their regulators and show that social media platforms can reduce the extent to which their users spread fake news articles by using well-designed fake news flags.

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