Study: Digital literacy doesn’t stop the spread of misinformation

By Sara Brown

Understanding why people believe and share things that are false is an important part of addressing the spread of misinformation on social media.

new study from MIT Sloan researchers takes a look at the role of digital literacy — familiarity with basic concepts related to the internet and social media — with mixed results. Digital literacy is associated with more discerning judgement about what’s true and false, but it doesn’t seem to predict whether the person is more or less likely to share false information on social media.

“These results add to the mixed pattern regarding digital literacy and misinformation on social media,” MIT Sloan professorDavid Rand and researchers Nathaniel Sirlin, Ziv Epstein, and Antonio Arechar write. “While digital literacy was associated with a better ability to identify true versus false information, this did not appear to translate into sharing better-quality information.” Rand is also a professor in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT. 

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