Our work is informed by the latest research on misinformation, psychology, science communication, and social media.
Credible Resources for Debunking
- WHO – How to report misinformation online
- Ryerson Social Media Lab – The COVID19MisInfo.org Portal
- MediaSmarts – Check Then Share
- European Centre for Disease Prevention – Countering Online Vaccine Misinformation
- Debunking Handbook
- WHO – Immunizing the Public Against Misinformation
- Journalist Resource – 9 tips for effective collaborations between journalists and academic researchers
- Harvard Misinformation Journal
- Full Fact – The backfire effect: Does it exist? And does it matter for factcheckers?
- The International Fact-Checking Network
- Health Law Institute: Debunking Works
- Ctrl-F – Find the Facts – Digital Media Literacy
Check below for summaries of recent research and debunking resources, provided by the University of Alberta’s Health Law Institute.
Why is Misinformation Believable and Who’s at Risk?
A systematic review examined “individual differences in susceptibility to health misinformation.” The results suggest those most likely to believe misinformation had conspiracy thinking, religiosity, conservative ideology, and using social media as an information source. Those able to resist misinformation were more educated, have more subject knowledge, literacy and numeracy skills, analytical thinking, and trust in science. (October 21, 2022)
Can You “Inoculate” Against Misinformation?
A new study suggests it is possible to inoculate against misinformation by using short videos to educate against common manipulation techniques, including “emotionally manipulative language, incoherence, false dichotomies, scapegoating, and ad hominem attacks.” The videos “improve manipulation technique recognition, boost confidence in spotting these techniques, increase people’s ability to discern trustworthy from untrustworthy content, and improve the quality of their sharing decisions.” (Aug 24, 2022)
Tackling Misinformation Requires Combatting it From All Angles
A recent study evaluated “interventions aimed at reducing viral misinformation online both in isolation and when used in combination.” The results suggest that isolated misinformation interventions are unlikely to be effective on their own, but a “combined approach” can lead to a “substantial reduction” in misinformation prevalence. (Jun 23, 2022)
How Does Deceptive Content Differ from Reputable Sources?
A new study investigated how the “characteristics of misinformation” is different from factual sources. The author’s found misinformation content is easier to understand, emotional, and negative. What does this mean? While all misinformation is harmful, different types of misinformation occur, and we can’t “treat all misinformation equally.” (May 9, 2022)
Politically Motivated Science Denial Requires Identification and Pre-Emptive Debunking
The COVID-19 pandemic is labelled an “infodemic” of misinformation, in which scientific findings have led to conflicts, partly fueled by disinformation from “politically motivated actors” that may “distort public perception of scientific evidence.” A recent study suggests in such cases, “misleading and inappropriate argumentation must be identified” so “they can be used to inoculate the public against their effects.” (May 5, 2022)
Prompting Users to Check Accuracy Reduces Sharing Misinformation, Study Finds
Interventions that encourage social media users to check the accuracy of the news they share online reduces the sharing of false headlines and increases the sharing of quality news sources. The implications of the study, published in Nature Communications, suggests that reminding online users to check the quality of the news they share can reduce the spread of misinformation. (April 28, 2022)
Spreading misinformation associated with mental health concerns?
Misinformation more emotional and negative in tone.
Yet more research links online misinformation to vaccine hesitancy.
ScienceUpFirst CSPC Panel – Innovative tools to debunk COVID-19 misinformation
Science Up First presented this panel on tools and strategies some experts use when tackling misinformation.
Does format matter when correcting misinformation?
It has long been suggested that how correct information is presented can impact the effectiveness of a debunk. For example, many recommend the use of a “truth sandwich” (facts followed by the corrected misinformation followed by the facts). But an interesting new study (still a preprint) finds that format really doesn’t matter. Good content is the key! (November 23, 2021)
Huge portion of U.S. population influenced by misinformation.
A recent survey found that 78% of Americans believe or are not sure about at least one piece of misinformation about COVID, such as the (very) incorrect ideas that the vaccines cause infertility or that the government is hiding deaths from the vaccines. It’s so important to continue to counter this kind of misinformation! (November 23, 2021)
Take a break from the noise!
We live in a very chaotic information environment! While it is important to use credible sources to stay informed, it is also important to avoid information overload. A new study found that in “a pandemic such as Covid-19 news consumers need to be informed, but avoiding news is sometimes necessary to stay mentally healthy.” (October 21, 2021)
Avoid the doom-scrolling!
Researchers found that just two to four minutes of COVID related news scrolling “led to immediate and significant reductions in positive affect and optimism.” Remember to occasionally put down the phone! (October 21, 2021)
Social media is a BIG part of the problem
Studies have consistently found that social media is a major force driving the spread of misinformation. A new study adds to the growing body of literature finding that 85% of COVID misinformation was produced on social media, with Facebook being the biggest source (67%). The study also found that the United States, India and Brazil are the countries most impacted by misinformation. (September 28, 2021)
Misinformation spreads fast and far
When it comes to misinformation, don’t trust your gut
People who rely on intuition to make decisions are more likely to believe and spread misinformation. But those with “higher analytic thinking levels were less likely to rate COVID-19 misinformation as accurate and were less likely to be willing to share COVID-19 misinformation.” So, remember to pause and apply a bit of critical thinking! (September 28, 2021)
People value efforts to counter misinformation
Nudging people to pause and think about accuracy can help
Numerous studies suggest that getting people to pause before they share online material might slow the spread of misinformation. Most people want to be accurate. But, as a recent study found, “people often share misinformation because their attention is focused on factors other than accuracy.” Finding ways to shift attention to accuracy can increase the “quality of news that people subsequently share.” Indeed, there seems to be a range of accuracy prompts that may be effective in this context. (July 26, 2021)
Yes, Debunking Works!
The body of evidence highlighting the value of debunking continues to grow. One recent study found that debunking misinformation online “improved subsequent truth discernment more than providing the same information during (labeling) or before (prebunking) exposure.” Another study also concluded that countering misinformation is effective, particularly if content that is easily sharable on social media and promotes credible facts are utilized. (July 26, 2021)