Web of lies: The limits of verification in preventing the spread of false information on networks

Kinga Makovi, Manuel Muñoz-Herrera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The spread of false information on social networks has garnered ample scientific and popular attention. To counteract this spread, verification of the truthfulness of information has been proposed as a key intervention. Using a novel behavioral experiment with over 2000 participants, we analyze participants’ willingness to spread false information in a network. All participants in the network have aligned incentives, making lying attractive, countering an explicit norm of truth-telling that we imposed. We investigate how verifying the truth, endogenously or exogenously, impacts the choices to lie or to adhere to the norm of truth-telling, compared to a setting without the possibility of verification. The three key take-aways are: (i) verification is only moderately effective in reducing the spread of lies; (ii) its effectivity is contingent on the agency of people to seek truth, and (iii) on the exposure of liars, and not only the lies told. These suggest that verification is not a blanket solution. In order to enhance its effectivity, it should be combined with fostering a culture of truth-seeking and with information on who spreads lies.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScientific Reports
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

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