No one is immune to misinformation: An investigation of misinformation sharing by subscribers to a fact-checking newsletter

Abstract

Like other disease outbreaks, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the rapid generation and dissemination of misinformation and fake news. We investigated whether subscribers to a fact checking newsletter (n = 1397) were willing to share possible misinformation, and whether predictors of possible misinformation sharing are the same as for general samples. We also investigated predictors of willingness to have a COVID-19 vaccine and found that although vaccine acceptance was high on average, it decreased as a function of lower belief in science and higher conspiracy mentality. We found that 24% of participants had shared possible misinformation and that this was predicted by a lower belief in science. Like general samples, our participants were typically motivated to share possible misinformation due to interest in the information, or to seek a second opinion about claim veracity. However, even if information is shared in good faith and not for the purpose of deceiving or misleading others, the spread of misinformation is nevertheless highly problematic. Exposure to misinformation engenders faulty beliefs in others and undermines efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19 by reducing adherence to social distancing measures and increasing vaccine hesitancy.

Publication
PLOS ONE

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