Skip to main content

University of Michigan School of Information


DS/CSS Seminar: Ziv Epstein

04/08/2021, 12:00 pm - 01:00 pm

Shifting attention to accuracy can reduce misinformation online


In recent years, there has been a great deal of concern about the proliferation of false and misleading news on social media. Academics and practitioners alike have asked why people share such misinformation, and sought solutions to reduce the sharing of misinformation. We attempt to address both of these questions. First, we find that the veracity of headlines has little effect on sharing intentions, despite having a large effect on judgments of accuracy. This dissociation suggests that sharing does not necessarily indicate belief. Nonetheless, most participants say it is important to share only accurate news.

To shed light on this apparent contradiction, we carried out four survey experiments and a field experiment on Twitter; the results show that subtly shifting attention to accuracy increases the quality of news that people subsequently share. These findings indicate that people often share misinformation because their attention is focused on factors other than accuracy—and therefore they fail to implement a strongly-held preference for accurate sharing. Our results challenge the popular claim that people value partisanship over accuracy , and provide evidence for scalable attention-based interventions that social media platforms could easily implement to counter misinformation online. I will also discuss some finding practical tips for deploying accuracy prompts on digital platforms and introduce a new platform for studying attention on social media. 

Speaker Bio:

Ziv Epstein

Zivvy Epstein is a PhD student in the Human Dynamics group at the MIT Media Lab.  His  work integrates aspects of design and computational social science to model and understand cooperative systems. He focuses on new challenges and opportunities that emerge from a digital society, particularly in the domains of artificial intelligence and social media.

The University of Michigan Data Science / Computational Social Science faculty host a seminar series that features invited talks, research presentations and informal work-in-progress discussions. A list of the scheduled speakers for Winter 2021 (January-April) is available here

Link to talk.