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Misinformation on social has unexpected explanation

Inattention is the main explanation to why people share false headlines on social media. 33.1% do it because they don’t understand the headlines were inaccurate, according to a study made by a number of universities in Europe and the US and published by the Nieman Lab and magazine Nature.

“Our results suggest that the current design of social media platforms — in which users scroll quickly through a mix of serious news and emotionally engaging content, and receive instantaneous quantified social feedback on their sharing — may discourage people from reflecting on accuracy,” the authors of the study write.


  • One-third — 33.1% — of participants’ decisions to share false headlines were because they didn’t realize they were inaccurate.
  • More than half of participants’ decisions to share false headlines — 51.2% — were because of inattention.
  • Nearly 60% said it’s “extremely important” that the content they share on social media is accurate. About 25% said it’s “very important.”
  • Partisanship was a driving factor behind 15.8% of decisions to share false headlines on social media.
  • Twitter users who previously shared content from Breitbart and Infowars were less likely to share misinformation after receiving private messages asking them for their opinion of the accuracy of a news headline. During the 24 hours after receiving the messages, these Twitter users were 2.8 times more likely to share a link to a mainstream news outlet than a link to a fake news or hyperpartisan website.

The study was made by a group of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Regina in Canada, University of Exeter Business School in the UK and Centre for Research and Teaching in Economics in Mexico. The study foused on Facebook and Twitter and respondents were based in the US.

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