Crowdsourcing can help fight misinformation

Date Posted: March 28, 2019 Last Modified: March 28, 2019
Crowdsourcing can help fight misinformation. Photo: Gerd Altmann, Pixabay

Crowdsourced judgments about the quality of news sources may effectively marginalize false news stories and other kinds of online misinformation. According to researchers, the crowdsourcing approach could work especially well in marginalising false news stories—for instance by building audience judgments into an algorithm ranking stories by quality. Crowdsourcing would probably be less effective, however, if a social media site were trying to build a consensus about the very best news sources and stories.

  • While there are real disagreements among Democrats and Republicans concerning mainstream news outlets, basically everybody—Democrats, Republicans, and professional fact-checkers—agree that the fake and hyperpartisan sites are not to be trusted
  • Using a pair of public-opinion surveys to evaluate of 60 news sources, researchers found that Democrats trusted mainstream media outlets more than Republicans do—with the exception of Fox News, which Republicans trusted far more than Democrats did.
  • When it comes to lesser-known sites peddling false information, as well as “hyperpartisan” political websites (the researchers include Breitbart and Daily Kos in this category), both Democrats and Republicans show a similar disregard for such sources.
  • Trust levels for alternative sites were low overall. In one survey, when respondents were asked to give a trust rating from 1 to 5 for news outlets, the result was that hyperpartisan websites received a trust rating of only 1.8 from both Republicans and Democrats; fake news sites received a trust rating of only 1.7 from Republicans and 1.9 from Democrats.
  • Mainstream media outlets received a trust rating of 2.9 from Democrats but only 2.3 from Republicans; Fox News, however, received a trust rating of 3.2 from Republicans, compared to 2.4 from Democrats.
  • The researchers conducted two online surveys that had roughly 1,000 participants each, one on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform, and one via the survey tool Lucid.
  • While Democrats and Republicans regarded prominent news outlets differently, that party-based mismatch largely vanished when it came to the other kinds of news sites.