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Breaking the news : the effects of fake news on political attitudes

Thijssen, Yori (2017) Breaking the news : the effects of fake news on political attitudes.

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Abstract:Fake news occurs more often nowadays, and that raises global concerns, especially when the possible influence of fake news on election outcomes is concerned. After all, voters may base the choice of their vote on the wrong information. In addition, the growth of alternative news media, and the role of social media as a platform for fake news, make fake news a more urgent matter than ever before. However, to this day, we are not aware of the precise impact of fake news yet. Therefore, this research provides insights in the effects of fake news on political attitudes. Fake news is a relatively new subject in both our society as in the field of academical research. We argue, that fake news is more than just incorrect news, and that it varies with the extent of perceived fakeness. Two experimental studies were conducted using the case of the Dutch general election in 2017. Both studies followed the same design, except for the topic of fake news that was used. Participants were distributed among three experimental conditions: a condition where participants were exposed to fake news with a low perceived fakeness, a condition where participants were exposed to fake news with a high perceived fakeness, and a control group, where participants were exposed to genuine news. The sample population consisted of students with both a low and a high education level (N=256). Results of both studies suggest that political attitudes are significantly influenced by fake news depending on its level of perceived fakeness. Contrary to expectations, this effect is not moderated by news media literacy, news media skepticism or current events knowledge. However, these three variables do have a direct effect on political attitudes. All in all, this research suggests, that fake news forms a potential threat for democracy. We did prove, that fake news affects political attitudes, and which factors play a role in this effect. Finally, we suggest, that detection systems using linguistic algorithms may offer a solution for the fake news problem. Overall, this research contributes to the scientific and societal discussion about the definition and the effects of fake news.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/72995
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