How Not to Debunk Fake News
You can debunk fake news — or at least put a dent in it. But simply piling on “true facts” to counter false information can often reinforce the falsehoods.
A study involving 7,000 participants and 20 experiments recommends the following tactics:
- Don’t repeat the falsehood. Doing so “reduces the acceptance of the debunking message.”
- Don’t label the falsehood as “wrong,” but present new information in ways that encourage the listener to reconsider their initial beliefs in new ways.
- When offering “corrective information,” encourage a discussion — even counter-arguments. This back-and-forth elicits “a state of healthy skepticism” that is conducive to fresh perspectives.
These days, “healthy skepticism” is something we could all use more of.
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Contact Nick DeSarno, manager, digital and communications practice, Public Affairs Council