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Septiembre-octubre de 2020, vol. 29, núm. 5
Pluralismo informativo / Informative pluralism

Intentional or inadvertent fake news sharing? Fact-checking warnings and users’ interaction with social media content

Alberto Ardèvol-Abreu; Patricia Delponti; Carmen Rodríguez-Wangüemert

This article is available in open access

Abstract: The main social media platforms have been implementing strategies to minimize fake news dissemination. These include identifying, labeling, and penalizing –via news feed ranking algorithms– fake publications. Part of the rationale behind this approach is that the negative effects of fake content arise only when social media users are deceived. Once debunked, fake posts and news stories should therefore become harmless. Unfortunately, the literature shows that the effects of misinformation are more complex and tend to persist and even backfire after correction. Furthermore, we still do not know much about how social media users evaluate content that has been fact-checked and flagged as false. More worryingly, previous findings suggest that some people may intentionally share made up news on social media, although their motivations are not fully explained. To better understand users’ interaction with social media content identified or recognized as false, we analyze qualitative and quantitative data from five focus groups and a sub-national online survey (N= 350). Findings suggest that the label of ‘false news’ plays a role –although not necessarily central– in social media users’ evaluation of the content and their decision (not) to share it. Some participants showed distrust in fact-checkers and lack of knowledge about the fact-checking process. We also found that fake news sharing is a two-dimensional phenomenon that includes intentional and unintentional behaviors. We discuss some of the reasons why some of social media users may choose to distribute fake news content intentionally.

Keywords: Social media; Facebook; Fake news; False news; Misinformation; Fact-checking; Debiasing; Covid-19; Coronavirus.