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Our Itch to Share Helps Spread Covid-19 Misinformation

By MIT News

July 14, 2020

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A study co-authored by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers found that when people consume news on social media, their penchant to share that news undermines their ability to assess its accuracy.

The team presented fake news headlines about Covid-19 to two cohorts, asking one to share those stories on social media while the other evaluated their accuracy; participants were 32.4% more likely to say they would share the headlines than they were to say they were accurate.

Those who were more likely to think critically, or who possessed more scientific knowledge, were less likely to spread misinformation.

MIT's David Rand suggested the pandemic's anxiety-inducing nature contributes to readers' failure to consider story accuracy before sharing—although the structure of social media itself is likely a greater influence.

Rand said, "There is just something more systemic and fundamental about the social media context that distracts people from accuracy."

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