Research from the Center for Media Engagement shows that social media users are highly susceptible to believing mis-, dis-, and mal-information (MDM) about political candidates from the opposing party. The research also concluded that Republicans and Democrats tend to respond differently to various styles of fact-checks on social media.
The Center found strong language essential in labeling MDM for Democrats using social media. Utilizing firmly authoritative language to label MDM resulted in a substantial decrease in Democratic users' tendency to believe MDM. Less authoritative language had little impact on users' belief in social media posts containing MDM.
Republican users were responsive to MDM fact-checks that provided context about the organization fact-checking the social media content. Including descriptions of the fact-checking organizations significantly increased the efficacy of and belief in fact-checks.
Why does it matter?
Improving the efficacy of MDM labels on social media increases your ability to access and share high-quality information, allowing all social media users to be more informed.
Current intense political polarization makes fact-checking social media content difficult and increases the propensity of MDM to spread online. This research provides crucial insight into best practices for decreasing the spread of MDM among social media users across the country, diminishing the potential for negative repercussions from widespread MDM.
What can you do?
Cite sources when you post on social media, so your followers know the information's origin.
Report MDM when you encounter it on your social media platforms.
Practice fact-checking information on social media; here is a resource to fact-check election information.