Interventions for the spreading of misinformation on social network sites
Date of Issue2018
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
The popularity of social network sites (SNSs) has demonstrated their important role in the digital world, but they have also led to the serious issue of widespread misinformation (defined in this study as inaccurate information in general, be it spread intentionally or not). The widespread misinformation on SNSs can cause misunderstanding, unnecessary anxiety, and even physical damage on users. Moreover, it is a big obstacle that prevents social media from growing into powerful information sources. Research addressing the issue of misinformation can be roughly categorised into three main approaches, namely diffusion analysis, correction and labelling, and user education. However, a gap still exists, since most studies focused primarily on the inaccurate content and the misinformed users. The present study suggests addressing the issue of misinformation from an angle that does not start from the credibility or judgment of the content of misinformation. In this way, a wider population can be targeted: both the intentional and unintentional spreading by the informed and the misinformed. Specifically, the study proposed interventions to address users’ spreading of health-related misinformation on Facebook. The study suggests seeing individual users’ spreading of misinformation on SNS as an information behaviour with underlying motivations weighted heavier than the informational value of the content. Employing social cognitive theory (SCT) as the theoretical framework, three interventions were developed based on the three types of outcome expectation from SCT, namely physical, social, and self-evaluative outcome expectation. Through experiments, the effects of the interventions on user’ negative outcome expectation toward misinformation spreading as well as their spreading of misinformation were investigated. Results showed that the interventions, particularly the one developed based on self-evaluative outcome expectation, were effective in reducing participants’ misinformation spreading. The promising findings yield important knowledge that can direct and encourage further research on the new strategy proposed in this thesis. This study differs from and complements existing studies that focused primarily on the quality of content in SNS messages, together a more comprehensive solution for the spreading of misinformation on SNS may be gained.
Nanyang Technological University