Almost all Americans agree with the fact that the rampant spread of misinformation is a problem.
Most also think that social media companies and their users are to blame for this situation.
But only a small number of Americans think they themselves can be responsible for the situation. The data is reflected in a new survey by the Pearson Institute, the Associated Press and the NORC research center.
95 percent of Americans say misinformation is a problem when they try to access important information. About half put the biggest blame on the U.S. government, and about three-quarters on social media users and tech companies.
However, only 2 in 10 Americans say they are very concerned that they themselves have personally spread misinformation.
The vast majority, about 6 in 10 Americans, say they are somewhat concerned that their friends or family may have been part of the problem.
For Carmen Speller, a 33-year-old graduate student in Lexington, Kentucky, the differences are obvious when she discusses the coronavirus pandemic with her immediate family circle. Speller believes in COVID-19 vaccines, but her family does not. She believes that the misinformation her family received on television or by reading on suspicious news sites influenced their decision not to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
In fact, some of her family members think she is crazy about trusting the government over the information she disseminates about COVID-19.
“I believe they think I am misinformed. “I am the one who is blindly following what the government says, and that is something I often hear,” Speller said. “The situation has reached the point where it is creating a lot of tension with my family and also with some of my friends.”
Speller is not the only one who has disagreements with her family over these issues.
The poll found that 61% of Republicans say the U.S. government has a lot of responsibility for spreading misinformation, compared to only 38% among Democrats.
However, both Democrats and Republicans agree on the role that social media companies play in spreading misinformation, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
According to the poll, 79% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats say social media companies have a large liability or a significant percentage of liability over misinformation.
This attitude, rare among Americans, could cause problems for tech giants like Facebook, the largest and most lucrative among social media platforms, which has been criticized by lawmakers from both parties.
“The poll is bad news for Facebook,” said Konstantin Sonin, a professor of public policy at the University of Chicago who also works with the Pearson Institute.
During a hearing in Congress on Tuesday, senators vowed to impose new regulations on the company. This comes after the testimony of a whistleblower, a former Facebook employee, who said that the company’s own data show that its algorithms promote misinformation and content that harm children.
“The company has benefited from spreading misinformation and sowing hatred,” Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal told a Senate Subcommittee on Trade and Consumer Protection.
The poll also found that Americans are willing to blame everyone but themselves for spreading misinformation. 53% of them say they are not worried that they may have spread misinformation.
“We encounter this many times. People think it’s something that happens to others. According to them, it is other people who are deceived by it (false information), and other people spread it “, says Lisa Fazio, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, who deals with issues related to the spread of false information. “Most people do not accept their role in this regard,” she said.
Young people tend to be more concerned that they may have disseminated false information. 25% of Americans aged 18 to 29 say they are very or extremely concerned that they have spread misinformation, compared to only 14% of Americans aged 60 and over. Sixty-three percent of the latter are not concerned that they may have been the cause of misinformation.
But as Ms. Fazio says it is older Americans who should be most concerned about the spread of misinformation, given that research shows they are more likely to share an article from a fake news website.
Before sharing things with her family or friends on Facebook, student Carmen Speller tries her best to make sure the information she is conveying on important topics like COVID-19 comes from a trusted medical institution. However, she admits that there have been one or two instances where she has “liked” or “shared” a post on social media regardless of whether the information was accurate or not.
“I’m sure it happened,” she says.
“I tend not to share things on social media that I do not find on verified pages. But I am open if anyone would point out to me, that the information I am disseminating is not accurate. “What would make me think and control such a thing”, adds the student./VOA
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