In the wake of the flood of misinformation that’s drowning the US, lots of organizations have turned to fact-checks. Many newsrooms set up dedicated fact-check groups, and some independent organizations were formed to provide the service. We get live fact-checking of political debates, and Facebook will now tag material it deems misinformation with links to a fact-check.
Obviously, given how many people are still afraid of COVID-19 vaccines, there are limits to how much fact-checking can accomplish. But might it be effective outside the overheated misinformation environment in the US? A new study tests out the efficacy of fact-checking in a set of countries that are both geographically and culturally diverse, and it finds that fact-checking is generally more effective at shaping public understanding than misinformation is.
Checking in with different countries
The two researchers behind the new work, Ethan Porter and Thomas Wood, identified three countries that are outside the usual group of rich, industrialized nations where most population surveys occur. These were Argentina, Nigeria, and South Africa. As a bit of a control for the typical surveys, they also ran their study in the UK. All four of these countries have professional fact-checking organizations that assisted with the work and were able to recruit 2,000 citizens for the study.