Does correcting online falsehoods make matters worse?

Peter Dizikes:

So, you thought the problem of false information on social media could not be any worse? Allow us to respectfully offer evidence to the contrary.

Not only is misinformation increasing online, but attempting to correct it politely on Twitter can have negative consequences, leading to even less-accurate tweets and more toxicity from the people being corrected, according to a new study co-authored by a group of MIT scholars.

The study was centered around a Twitter field experiment in which a research team offered polite corrections, complete with links to solid evidence, in replies to flagrantly false tweets about politics.

“What we found was not encouraging,” says Mohsen Mosleh, a research affiliate at the MIT Sloan School of Management, lecturer at University of Exeter Business School, and a co-author of a new paper detailing the study’s results. “After a user was corrected … they retweeted news that was significantly lower in quality and higher in partisan slant, and their retweets contained more toxic language.”