Ever since the terminology “fake news” popped up, it’s has become somewhat of an “it” word; where Macquarie Dictionary even chose it ‘Word Of The Year’. People use it almost as much as they use ‘alternative facts’ in an attempt to get their side of the story to be the one people deem as the truth.
However, this can be pretty dangerous. Especially when you’re feeding a population misconstrued claims about things they genuinely need to be concerned about.
Luckily some scientists have our back. They believe they have created a “vaccine” that may help defend against fake news stories that state climate change isn’t a thing.
The study’s lead author, Sander van der Linden, explained a little about why they undertook this task.
“Misinformation can be sticky, spreading and replicating like a virus. We wanted to see if we could find a ‘vaccine’ by pre-emptively exposing people to a small amount of the type of misinformation they might experience. A warning that helps preserve the facts,” explained Dr van der Linden.
The study, which was published in the Global Challenges journal, took two climate change claims, one a well-known fact and the other from a misinformation campaign, and compared the reaction of 2000 U.S residents.
So what did they find?
When they were presented with the fact and the “false material” consecutively, the “false material” instantly cancelled out the truth. The scientists then decided to create an “inoculation” by revealing distortion tactics that some groups use to bend the truth.
They then showed the climate change fact against the misinformation, where there was a shift of 6.5 per cent of people towards the acceptance of climate change consensus.
What do you know?
“A lot of people’s attitudes toward climate change aren’t very firm. They are aware there is a debate going on, but aren’t necessarily sure what to believe. Conflicting messages can leave them feeling back at square one,” Dr van der Linden said.
So how do we stop misinformation and fake news spreading? By teaching people the ways that fake news is spread and the reasons why. The majority of the time, there are hidden agendas behind the spreading of “fake news” and if people knew the reasons why, then it could greatly increase the identification of “fake news”.