“Homegrown ‘fake news’ is a bigger problem than Russian propaganda. Here’s a way to make falsehoods more costly for politicians.”

Brendan Nyhan and Yusaku Horiuchi for the Monkey Cage:

One promising approach is summary fact-checking — an increasingly popular format that presents an overview of fact-checking ratings for a politician. This is distinct from focusing on whether a single statement is true or false; rather, it evaluates a group of such statements, assessing a speaker’s overall truthfulness and reliability as a source. Though the statements in question are of course not randomly chosen, the format may be an effective way to increase the costs of repeatedly making false statements.

One of us (Nyhan) investigated the effect of this format in three experimental studies conducted in 2016 and 2017 in collaboration with different undergraduate co-authors at Dartmouth. Compared with respondents who saw fact-checks of individual statements by politicians, participants in the studies who instead saw summary fact-check ratings viewed the legislators in question less favorably and rated their statements as less accurate.

Summary fact-checking won’t persuade everyone, of course. But if we can make politicians fear the political costs of a pattern of false claims a little bit more, there may be less misinformation to report in the first place.


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