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There has been tremendous concern recently over misinformation on social media. Unfortunately, the concern is justified, as the consequences of believing false information are shaping the future of nations and affect our collective health.
One popular theory why people fall for misinformation they find online is that they lack digital literacy skills, yet, very little research has investigated the link between digital literacy and susceptibility to believe false information.
There are two different definitions for digital literacy.
One study found that digital literacy is indeed a good predictor of one's ability to discern accurate information from falsehoods. In addition, both digital literacy measures independently predicted the tendency of participants to rate factual news as more accurate than false news.
A study showed that people who were more digitally literate were just as likely to say they'd share false articles as people who lacked digital literacy.
Even people with high digital literacy were not immune from sharing false news. Potential reasons are that although people don't want to spread misinformation, social media is quick and distracting. People are drawn to social validation and other feedback such as likes on their posts. This means they often forget to ask if a story is true when considering whether to share it.
Just because a piece of false information parading as “news” has been shared millions of times doesn’t necessarily mean that millions believed it to be true.
At the same time, just because someone is better at distinguishing fact from falsehood if they stop to think about it, does not necessarily mean they will share more accurate information.
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