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Assessing the Effect of 'Disputed' Warnings and Source Salience on Perceptions of Fake News Accuracy

51 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2017 Last revised: 16 Sep 2017

Gordon Pennycook

Yale University

David G. Rand

Yale University

Date Written: September 15, 2017

Abstract

What are effective techniques for combating belief in fake news? Tagging fake articles with “Disputed by 3rd party fact-checkers” warnings and making articles’ sources more salient by adding publisher logos are two approaches that have received large-scale rollouts on social media in recent months. Here we assess the effect of these interventions on perceptions of accuracy across seven experiments (total N=7,534). With respect to disputed warnings, we find that tagging articles as disputed did significantly reduce their perceived accuracy relative to a control without tags, but only modestly (d=.20, 3.7 percentage point decrease in headlines judged as accurate). Furthermore, we find an “implied truth” effect – particularly among Trump supporters and those under 26 years of age – whereby untagged fake news stories are seen as more accurate than in the control. We also find a similar implied truth effect for real news, whose perceived accuracy is increased by the presence of disputed tags on other headlines. With respect to source salience, we find no evidence that adding a banner with the logo of the headline’s publisher had any impact on accuracy judgments whatsoever. Together, these results suggest that the currently deployed approaches are not nearly enough to effectively undermine belief in fake news, and new (empirically supported) strategies are needed.

Keywords: fake news, news media, social media, fact-checking, misinformation, source credibility

Suggested Citation

Pennycook, Gordon and Rand, David G., Assessing the Effect of 'Disputed' Warnings and Source Salience on Perceptions of Fake News Accuracy (September 15, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3035384

Gordon Pennycook

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

David G. Rand (Contact Author)

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.DaveRand.org

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