News Can Help! The Impact of News Media and Digital Platforms on Awareness of and Belief in Misinformation

Altay, Sacha; Nielsen, Rasmus Kleis; Fletcher, Richard
The International Journal of Press/Politics

Does the news media exacerbate or reduce misinformation problems? Although some news media deliberately try to counter misinformation, it has been suggested that they might also inadvertently, and sometimes purposefully, amplify it. We conducted a two-wave panel survey in Brazil, India, and the UK (N?=?4732) to investigate the effect of news and digital platform use on awareness of and belief in COVID-19 misinformation over time (January to February 2022). We find little support for the idea that the news exacerbates misinformation problems. News use broadened people’s awareness of false claims but did not increase belief in false claims?in some cases, news use actually weakened false belief acquisition, depending on access mode (online or offline) and outlet type. In line with previous research, we also find that news use strengthens political knowledge gain over time, again depending on outlets used. The effect of digital platforms was inconsistent across countries, and in most cases not significant?though some, like Twitter, were associated with positive outcomes while others were associated with negative outcomes. Overall, our findings challenge the notion that news media, by reporting on false and misleading claims, ultimately leave the public more misinformed, and support the idea that news helps people become more informed and, in some cases, more resilient to misinformation.