A new study has found that Government warnings are ‘ineffective’ in battling COVID-19 misinformation.
The study, carried out at UCD and UCC, exposed nearly 4,000 people to both real and fake stories about the virus.
It found that providing a general warning on the dangers of online misinformation had no effect people’s response to fake stories.
However, it also found that exposure to fake news had little effect on people’s behaviour.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, report author Ciara Greene said she was surprised at how little effect the misinformation had on people’s actions.
“We fully expected that we would see a reasonably substantial effect of these fake stories on behavioural intentions but we found only very small and very inconsistent effects,” she said.
“We looked at a story about the effects of spicy food on the virus and found that reading that story really didn’t have any effect on people’s intentions to go and have a curry in the next few months.”
She said a fake story about issues with the COVID tracing app appeared to be slightly more convincing for readers; however, it still had a minimal effect on whether they were likely to download the app.
She said the Irish Government has been quite successful in terms of getting real information on the virus front and centre for Irish audiences.
She warned however, that some people will always have pre-conceived ideas.
“It is absolutely the case that people will often choose to listen to the information they were going to believe in the first place,” she said.
“We have this thing called confirmation bias where, if we have a particular political viewpoint or a particular way of looking at the world, information that confirms that will tend to be the information that we seek out.
“The information that, once we see it, we will tend to believe and that we will tend to remember in the future.”
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