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New research to find out why people share false information on private social media

Loughborough University has been awarded a significant grant from the Leverhulme Trust to examine why people share false and misleading information on private social media platforms.

Professor Andrew Chadwick, the project’s Principal Investigator and Professor Cristian Vaccari (Co-Investigator) were awarded £347,000 from the Trust’s prestigious Research Project Grant scheme for the study.

As well as looking at the sharing of misinformation on private platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and Apple Messages, the research will advance knowledge of why some individuals challenge false and misleading information and decide not to share it.

The project, Understanding the Everyday Sharing of Misinformation on Private Social Media, will be based in the University’s Online Civic Culture Centre (O3C). It will run for three years and provide for significant fieldwork and a full-time research assistant and funded PhD student.

Professor Chadwick, Director of the O3C, said: “Developments over recent years, including the global Coronavirus pandemic, teach us that getting to the root of the problem of online misinformation requires much richer and contextual understandings of why ordinary people share—and do not share—false and misleading information.

“There is growing concern that private platforms such as WhatsApp are playing a major role in the spread of misinformation around the world. This project will develop and apply a new theoretical and methodological framework combining in-depth longitudinal qualitative fieldwork in three English regions and nationally representative panel surveys of the UK population.

“Digital literacies should be based in the contexts of peoples’ everyday interactions, as they struggle to make sense of false and misleading information in their daily lives. Technologically mediated and face-to-face social networks, local, national, and international media, and community and family structures all play a role in shaping how false and misleading information comes to be seen as socially useful. Understanding these factors is a key challenge for societies.

“The project will develop the research capacity of the UK in an area of global importance.”

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 20/52

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