Many social media users would rather share news online than check if it’s true, a study found.
Researchers found that Facebook and Twitter users were often too distracted to check whether their posts were accurate.
David Rand, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said it wasn’t because they were “immoral,” but more likely because of the environment in which we consume news on the platforms.
For the US study, more than 3,000 people were shown a series of true and false headlines about politics and the pandemic.
Participants were asked how accurate the content was or if they wanted to share it.
Researchers found that Facebook and Twitter users were often too distracted to check whether their posts were accurate
At other times they were asked both questions.
The authors said the results allowed them to work out how posting content affected the ability of the person who shared it to decide whether it was true or not.
They found that participants who were first asked about sharing the content before being asked about its accuracy were 35 percent worse at discerning truths than falsehoods.
Too distracted to check accuracy
Professor Rand, co-author of the paper, said: ‘Just by asking people if they want to share things, they are more likely to believe headlines they would otherwise not have believed, and less likely to believe headlines they do. would have believed.’
However, he said this was due to a “general distraction,” indicative of how we consume news on social media rather than attempts to mislead each other.
The academic, whose study was published in the journal Science Advances, said: “I think in a way there’s a hopeful view of it because a big part of the message is that people aren’t immoral and they deliberately share bad things – and people are not completely hopeless.
“But it’s more that the social media platforms have created an environment where people are distracted.”
Hand over details to next of kin or risk jail time
Social media bosses risk a year in prison if they fail to hand over data to next of kin under the online safety law.
The amendment would now have received support from Michelle Donelan, the secretary of state responsible for the legislation.
Under the proposal, tech giants will be required to hand over all relevant content within “a time frame that is fair to all parties.”
This includes content the victim viewed, the algorithms that sent potentially malicious material to them, and how they handled it.
It was brought up to prevent families from experiencing the same trauma as Molly Russell’s parents, who were denied access to their daughter’s online accounts for nearly five years.
It was brought up to prevent families from experiencing the same trauma as the parents of Molly Russell (pictured), who were denied access to their daughter’s online accounts for nearly five years
The 14-year-old schoolgirl was bombarded with depression, self-harm and suicide content online in the months leading up to her suicide in 2017.
On Sunday, the lawyer who helped the Russell family access the material wrote a letter to Ms Donelan and Dominic Raab, the Attorney General, supporting the campaign.
Merry Varney said the social media companies involved had provided only a ‘small fraction’ of the requested material, despite being asked by the coroner.
The amendment – drafted by Baroness Kidron, founder of charity 5Rights – is also supported by four former culture secretaries.
Under this, failure to provide or retain the content “without reasonable excuse” is punishable by fines of up to 10 percent of the firms’ worldwide turnover or imprisonment for up to one year.
The Online Safety Bill now falls under the responsibility of the new Department of Science, Innovation and Technology.