Recent studies by researchers have unveiled some insights into how our online search habits can shape our beliefs, especially regarding the authenticity of news, search engine and misinformation.
Contrary to popular belief, searching online for the truthfulness of news may actually lead us to believe false information. This counterintuitive finding emerged from a series of five experiments, indicating a need to rethink how we use search engines for fact-checking.
Birthing ‘Data Voids’
A key factor in this phenomenon is the quality of information that search engines return. When searches yield lower-quality information, people are more likely to believe in misinformation. This highlights the presence of ‘data voids’ – spaces where low-quality sources provide abundant corroborating evidence, overshadowing reliable information.
The study also found that online searches increase belief in true news from less reputable sources. This effect, however, was inconsistent when the news came from mainstream, more credible sources.
The research combined survey data with digital trace data collected via a custom browser extension, offering a detailed look at the impact of search behavior on news belief.
These findings challenge the current media literacy strategies that heavily rely on online searches for verifying news. The study suggests a need for media literacy programs to incorporate these findings into their curriculum and for search engines to address the challenges of information quality and data voids.
Modeling Political Knowledge, Public Opinion
The study also highlights the effective role of search engines in modeling political knowledge and public opinion. The reliability of search engine results, often considered more trustworthy than traditional news sources, is crucial in forming opinions about the veracity of news.
The research focused on potential reasons behind the increased belief in misinformation due to online searches. It posits that exposure to unreliable information and specific search terms used could be contributing factors.
While providing insights, the study acknowledges its limitations and the need for further research. Future studies could explore the behavioral impact of digital media literacy guides and the intricacies of individual search behaviors.
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