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How Not to Debunk Fake News

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How Not to Debunk Fake News

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November 2017

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.


Want More Information on This Topic?

Contact Nick DeSarno, manager, digital and communications practice, Public Affairs Council

Additional Resources

How Moral Appeals Work in Political Ads

Haters Gonna Hate