Header

UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

Is sensationalist disinformation more effective? Three facilitating factors at the national, individual, and situational level


Staender, Anna; Humprecht, Edda; Esser, Frank; Morosoli, Sophie; Van Aelst, Peter (2021). Is sensationalist disinformation more effective? Three facilitating factors at the national, individual, and situational level. Digital Journalism:1-21.

Abstract

Throughout the current global health crisis, false and misleading content has proliferated on social media. Previous research indicates that users of social media primarily share information that contains attention-grabbing elements. Because sensationalist elements are prevalent in disinformation, this study examines the role of sensationalism in supporting disinformation. We conducted survey experiments in six countries (N = 7,009), presenting versions of a false claim that differed in their degree of sensationalism. We varied three contextual conditions for disinformation support: whether respondents grew up in a tabloid-oriented national news culture, whether they indicated individual usage preferences for tabloid and alternative media, and how they rated their situational uncertainty during the pandemic. Our results show a weak influence of tabloidized cultures, but people who frequently use tabloid or alternative media are more likely to agree with disinformation. Users who are uncertain about what is true and what is false are also more likely to agree with disinformation, especially when it is presented sensationally. The average user, however, is more likely to agree with disinformation that is presented neutrally. This finding is concerning, as disinformation presented in a sober manner is much harder to detect by those who want to fight the “infodemic.”

Abstract

Throughout the current global health crisis, false and misleading content has proliferated on social media. Previous research indicates that users of social media primarily share information that contains attention-grabbing elements. Because sensationalist elements are prevalent in disinformation, this study examines the role of sensationalism in supporting disinformation. We conducted survey experiments in six countries (N = 7,009), presenting versions of a false claim that differed in their degree of sensationalism. We varied three contextual conditions for disinformation support: whether respondents grew up in a tabloid-oriented national news culture, whether they indicated individual usage preferences for tabloid and alternative media, and how they rated their situational uncertainty during the pandemic. Our results show a weak influence of tabloidized cultures, but people who frequently use tabloid or alternative media are more likely to agree with disinformation. Users who are uncertain about what is true and what is false are also more likely to agree with disinformation, especially when it is presented sensationally. The average user, however, is more likely to agree with disinformation that is presented neutrally. This finding is concerning, as disinformation presented in a sober manner is much harder to detect by those who want to fight the “infodemic.”

Statistics

Citations

Altmetrics

Downloads

1 download since deposited on 12 Oct 2021
1 download since 12 months
Detailed statistics

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:700 Arts
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Communication
Uncontrolled Keywords:Disinformation, social media, COVID-19, tabloid, alternative media
Language:English
Date:16 September 2021
Deposited On:12 Oct 2021 11:54
Last Modified:13 Oct 2021 20:02
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:2167-0811
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/21670811.2021.1966315
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID100017L_182253
  • : Project TitleFrom Uninformed to Disinformed Citizens? - Comparing Western Information Environments

Download

Closed Access: Download allowed only for UZH members