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The research will investigate different strategies to correct misinformation through large-scale digital field experiments

Exeter professor awarded Google scholarship for research into misinformation on social media

A research proposal from a University of Exeter Business School professor that aims to stem the tide of misinformation on social media has been awarded $60,000 by Google.

Professor Mohsen Mosleh, Professor in Business Analytics at the Business School, is among the recipients of Google’s new Research Scholar Programme, which aims to develop collaborations with academics working on cutting-edge research in computer science.

Professor Mosleh plans to use the unrestricted gift to research how best to implement one potential approach to combat the spread of misinformation and false news, that of debunking claims identified as false by professional fact-checkers or algorithms.

Through a series of large-scale digital field experiments the research project will investigate different correction strategies.

Previous studies have found that correcting misinformation can itself be a challenge as social media users may be committed to defending misleading content once shared or choose to ignore the correction.

Correcting misinformation has even been found to increase the partisan bias of social media users or the toxicity of the misinformation shared.

Professor Mosleh’s research proposal focuses on the language a corrective message employs and how this impacts on users’ engagement with the message, as well as updating their beliefs about specific information and subsequent behaviours on the platform.

The research will also look at how the source of a corrective message impacts on how receptive users are to receiving the correction (eg whether they come from another user, a fact-checking company or a tech company).

Professor Mosleh said: “Addressing the issue of misinformation on social media at scale requires close collaboration between academia and technology companies.  

“I am really excited about this opportunity provided by Google and I believe it will help to take a huge step towards combatting the spread of misinformation.

“This project uniquely combines online lab experiments with digital field experiments on social media to assess the effectiveness of different fact-checking strategies. I am hoping the results provide insights to social media companies to help improve the quality of content we as a society consume.”

It follows a number of recent research papers by Professor Mosleh on the subject of misinformation and false news, including a recent study published in Nature that found social media companies should tackle the scourge of misinformation by reminding users about the importance of accuracy.

Date: 13 April 2021

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