Fake News on Social Media
Alan R. Dennis
John T. Chambers Chair of Internet Systems
Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
Friday, October 12, 2018
10:30 AM – noon
Speakman Hall Suite 200
Fake news on social media has received much media attention and many experts believe it influenced the 2016 US Presidential election and the 2016 Brexit vote. More than 60% of Americans consume news on social media, and 84% believe they can detect fake news. But can they? We studied the ability of experienced social media users to detect fake news, and how seeing news headlines – both real and fake – influenced their cognition. Only 18% of subjects could detect fake news better than chance; 82% of users could have made better judgments by flipping a coin. We found that confirmation bias dominates, with users essentially unable to distinguish real news from fake news, and that cognition is driven by how well a news headline aligns with the user’s prior political beliefs.
We conducted a series of studies examining different ways in which the social media user interface could be designed, including how news headlines are presented, and the effects of quality ratings. These different interface designs had different effects on the extent to which users believed social media stories, and how likely they were to read, like, comment on and share the stories.