The US$44 billion (£36 billion) purchase of Twitter by “free speech absolutist” Elon Musk has many people worried. The concern is the site will start moderating content less and spreading misinformation more, especially after his announcement that he would reverse the former US president Donald Trump’s ban.
There’s good reason for the concern. Research shows the sharing of unreliable information can negatively affect the civility of conversations, perceptions of key social and political issues, and people’s behaviour.
Research also suggests that simply publishing accurate information to counter the false stuff in the hope that the truth will win out isn’t enough. Other types of moderation are also needed. For example, our work on social media misinformation during COVID showed it spread much more effectively than related fact-check articles.
This implies some sort of moderation is always going to be needed to boost the spread of accurate information and enable factual content to prevail. And while moderation is hugely challenging and not always successful at stopping misinformation, we’re learning more about what works as social media firms increase their efforts.