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Does the label of trust in journalistic sources affect the consumption of news? A new study shows limited effects – ScienceDaily

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Labeling trust in information sources does not negate the consumption of news from low-quality sources and does not reduce faith in widespread inaccurate statements among average Internet users, but providing an indicator of quality sources can improve the quality of diet news for the toughest consumers. New York University policy.

Notably, researchers also found that most people rely on reliable sources of information, and two-thirds completely avoid unreliable news sites.

A study that appears in a journal Advances in sciencefocuses on the trust ratings defined by NewsGuard, an extension for the browser that evaluates news and other information sites to guide users in assessing the reliability of the content they encounter online.

“While it’s reassuring that most of us rely on reliable sources of information, there are many who turn to sites with questionable reliability, which raises concerns about misconceptions that people may have,” said Kevin Aslet, a doctoral student at the Center for Social Media. and Policy (CSMaP) and lead author. “However, although our study shows that overall trust ratings do not have a significant effect on the misperceptions or behavior of the average user on the Internet, our results suggest that the most difficult consumers of misinformation – those who rely on low-trust sites – may move to better sources if news reliability ratings are provided. ”

In a study conducted in May and June 2020, researchers encouraged a random sample of more than 3,000 online participants to install an extension for the NewsGuard browser that embeds news reliability indicators at the source level into user search engine results pages, social feeds, and visited URLs. Various “shield” symbols are placed in the ribbon to provide a visual summary of the quality of the sources:

  • Green shield = reliable source
  • Red shield = unreliable source
  • Gray Shield = source with user-generated content
  • Golden Shield = satire

To measure the effect of these source designations, survey data were collected over two time periods (May 28 – June 9 and June 19 – June 30).

In addition to this panel survey, researchers also collected anonymous digital footprints to characterize quality news consumption of about 1,000 participants. These quality metrics used the same NewsGuard ratings shown to study participants when they encountered news links in their browsers.

Previous research has shown that exposure to misinformation and fake news on the Internet can increase belief in misconceptions, increase cynicism about politics, reduce media confidence and increase affective polarization (ie contempt for supporters of another political party). Moreover, previous research also suggests that expert source ratings, when shown alongside a fictitious news article, may affect perceptions of the truth of an article’s assertion.

In light of these earlier findings, researchers examined whether source reliability labels could counteract these effects by shifting news consumption from unreliable sources to more reliable ones, increasing trust in major media and trusted sources, and / or mitigating political polarization and cynicism.

To measure whether the source’s reliability information affected the belief in misinformation, as well as in accurate allegations, respondents were asked to judge the veracity of five widespread statements about the Black Lives Matter movement and five equally common statements about COVID-19 – some true and some false.

Combining the data from the panel survey and the data on visits to the website at the individual level, the results showed the following:

  • Most people have reliable media diets: Most people (65 percent) did not attend any unreliable news sites prior to the study, consistent with previous authors ’studies. In fact, only 1.5 percent of respondents relied heavily on unreliable news sources.
  • Signs of trust in the source on average were not affected: Browser trust labels have not significantly changed the change in online consumption from unreliable sources to more reliable ones, failed to significantly change the misperception of widespread inaccurate allegations about COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, and have not changed media trust in general.
  • However, source shortcuts have made a difference for those who consume the lowest quality news: There has been a marked improvement in overall trust in news sources attended by those who started the study with the lowest quality diet news, according to NewsGuard.

“In our guerrilla age, when attitudes toward news sources are strongly correlated with the party, relatively subtle signals such as sources of trust in sources cannot be strong enough to change news habits and counter misconceptions among the general public,” said Andrew M. Gus, a lecturer researcher at CSMaP and an associate professor at Princeton University. “However, a key indicator of the success of this intervention is how it changes the behavior of those who consume the lowest quality news. The fact that it does not work for the general population does not mean that the tool is ineffective. It means it should be part of a much larger set of tools to combat the spread of misinformation on the Internet. ”

Other authors of the paper were Joshua A. Tucker and Jonathan Nagler, professors of the Department of Politics at New York University, and Richard Bono, professor of the Department of Biology at New York University and the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Tucker, Nagler and Bono are co-directors of CSMaP.

NewsGuard was not involved in the development or funding of this study.

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