WOULD YOU like to rid the Internet of false political news stories and misinformation? Then consider using crowdsourcing, maintains a study coauthored by an associate professor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's School of Management, which shows that crowdsourced judgments about the quality of news sources effectively may marginalize false news stories and other kinds of online misinformation.
"What we found is that, while there are real disagreements among Democrats and Republicans concerning mainstream news outlets, basically everybody--Democrats, Republicans, and professional fact-checkers--agree that the fake and hyperpartisan sites are not to be trusted," says David Rand.
Using a pair of public-opinion surveys to evaluate 60 news sources, the researchers found that Democrats trust mainstream media outlets more than Republicans do--with the exception of Fox News, which Republicans trust far more than Democrats do. However, when it comes to lesser-known sites peddling false information, as well as "hyperpartisan" political websites, both Democrats and Republicans show a similar disregard for such sources.
Trust levels for these alternative sites are low overall. For instance, in one survey, when respondents were asked to give a trust rating from one to five for news outlets, the result was that hyperpartisan websites received a trust rating of 1.8 from both Republicans and Democrats; fake news sites received a trust rating of 1.7 from Republicans and 1.9 from Democrats.
By contrast, mainstream media outlets received a trust rating of 2.9 from Democrats but only 2.3 from Republicans. Fox News, however, received a trust rating of 3.2 from Republicans, compared to 2.4 from Democrats.
The study adds a twist to a high-profile issue. False news stories have proliferated online in recent years, and social media sites such as Facebook have received sharp criticism for giving them visibility. Facebook also faced pushback for a January 2018 plan to let readers rate the quality of online news sources, but the current study suggests such a crowdsourcing approach could work well, if implemented correctly. "If the goal is to remove really bad content, this actually seems quite promising," indicates Rand.
To perform the study, the researchers --Rand and Gordon Pennycook, assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada--conducted two online surveys that had roughly 1,000 participants each...