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Title: Misinformation on Misinformation: Conceptual and Methodological Challenges
Authors: Altay, S
Berriche, M
Acerbi, A
Keywords: misinformation;misperceptions;social media;conspiracy theories;big data;audience research
Issue Date: 9-Nov-2021
Publisher: Center for Open Science
Citation: Altay, S., Berriche, M. and Acerbi, A. (2021) 'Misinformation on Misinformation: Conceptual and Methodological Challenges', PsyArXiv, pp. 1-28. doi: 10.31234/
Abstract: Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Alarmist narratives about online misinformation continue to gain traction despite evidence that its prevalence and impact are overstated. Drawing on research questioning the use of big data in social science and reception studies, we identify six misconceptions about misinformation and examine the conceptual and methodological challenges they raise. The first three misconceptions concern the prevalence and circulation of misinformation. First, the internet is not rife with misinformation or news, but with memes and entertaining content. Second, scientists focus on social media because it is methodologically convenient, but misinformation is not just a social media problem. Third, falsehoods do not spread faster than the truth; how we define (mis)information influences our results and their practical implications. The second three misconceptions concern the impact and the reception of misinformation. First, people do not believe everything they see on the internet: sheer volume of engagement should not be conflated with belief. Second, the influence of misinformation on people’s behavior is overblown since it often ‘preaches to the choir’. Third, people are more likely to be uninformed than misinformed; surveys overestimate misperceptions and say little about the causal influence of misinformation. To appropriately understand and fight misinformation, future research needs to address these challenges.
Appears in Collections:Dept of Life Sciences Research Papers

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