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Fact or fake? A quantitative study of trust in online news

Stephanie D'haeseleer (UGent) , Tom Evens (UGent) and Kristin Van Damme (UGent)
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Abstract
The post-truth society raises questions on what elements truth is shaped today (Farkas & Schou, 2018; Van Damme et al., 2020). The digitization of news, both in production and distribution, resulted in an increasing prevalence of disinformation on digital media. The boundaries between fake information and truth are increasingly blurring (Amaral & Silveira, 2018; Deprez et al., 2018; Van Damme et al., 2020). Because of the potential consequences of disinformation on digital media platforms, academic researchers and policymakers address the increased importance of tackling disinformation worldwide (EU Digital Services Act, 2022). The production and dissemination of disinformation can have a range of destructive consequences, such as polarising public debates or being a threat to our democracies. That is problematic because news consumers who lack accurate information could become unable to form a reasoned and informed opinion to participate in the public debate (Deprez & Van Leuven, 2020).According to previous research, in particular, young audiences mainly consume news they find online and they seem to have difficulties in verifying the information they encounter online (Amaral & Silveira, 2018; Deprez et al., 2018; Heuer & Breiter, 2018). They are also increasingly sceptic, and even distrusting, toward journalism (Van Damme et al., 2022). Despite the concerns about fake versus truth are increasing, there is still a willingness among people to consume news on digital platforms. As a consequence, the question arises to what extent young adults trust online news. With this in mind, this paper seeks to answer the following question: Which factors such as media literacy could predict trust in news on digital media platforms among Flemish young adults? And furthermore, which factors are the best predictors for trust in online news? The literature review of the study shows that the broader term of disinformation, fake news, can take different forms such as parody, satire, or hate speech. Within literature, there is no agreement on the definition of fake news. Nevertheless, Wardle (2020) made an attempt to categorize the umbrella term into the framework The Age of Information Disorder. In a venn diagram, Wardle (2020) made the categorization of fake news into mis-, mal- and disinformation. The latter is the most dangerous one for news consumers and journalists whether they could trust news they encounter in their daily life. For this pilot study, the attitude of 279 respondents aged between 18-34 in Flanders was measured via an online survey. The data collection was conducted from December 2021 to March 2022 via a convenience sampling. Based on previous research (Barakat et al., 2021; Deprez et al., 2018; Heuer & Breiter, 2018; Herrero-Diz et al., 2019; Marchi, 2012; Stefanone et al., 2019; Tandoc Jr et al., 2017), the study explores four factors which could be predictive for trust in online news. It takes a look at the potential prediction of age, education, social media contacts and media literacy on trust in online news messages. Next to that, the study takes a look at the extent to which the number of likes/shares/comments of an online news message is correlated with trust. In addition, the study examines whether trust in news is correlated with the question if news consumers would interact with online news when they trust that message. The results show that the respondent's age and his/her social media contacts could have an influence on trust in online news. Also, the number of likes/shares/comments of a news item are positively correlated with trust, just as trust is positively correlated with the respondent’s willingness to interact with that online news if they seem to have trust in that news message. Surprisingly, media literacy has not a predictive influence on trust in online news. Also, the education level has no influence. That arises questions whether media literacy is so important for trust in online news and for tackling disinformation. According to previous research (Tandoc Jr et al., 2017), media literacy facilitates the identification of truth versus fake news in online contexts. Individuals who has more knowledge about (news) media would be better in recognizing fake news. This contradiction means that further research about media and digital literacy is still needed in the continuously evolving digital age.

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Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

MLA
D’haeseleer, Stephanie, et al. “Fact or Fake? A Quantitative Study of Trust in Online News.” Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap 2023, Abstracts, 2023.
APA
D’haeseleer, S., Evens, T., & Van Damme, K. (2023). Fact or fake? A quantitative study of trust in online news. Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap 2023, Abstracts. Presented at the Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap, Enschede, the Netherlands.
Chicago author-date
D’haeseleer, Stephanie, Tom Evens, and Kristin Van Damme. 2023. “Fact or Fake? A Quantitative Study of Trust in Online News.” In Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap 2023, Abstracts.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
D’haeseleer, Stephanie, Tom Evens, and Kristin Van Damme. 2023. “Fact or Fake? A Quantitative Study of Trust in Online News.” In Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap 2023, Abstracts.
Vancouver
1.
D’haeseleer S, Evens T, Van Damme K. Fact or fake? A quantitative study of trust in online news. In: Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap 2023, Abstracts. 2023.
IEEE
[1]
S. D’haeseleer, T. Evens, and K. Van Damme, “Fact or fake? A quantitative study of trust in online news,” in Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap 2023, Abstracts, Enschede, the Netherlands, 2023.
@inproceedings{01HG8PFXMFY8V0F73XFK9F021Y,
  abstract     = {{The post-truth society raises questions on what elements truth is shaped today (Farkas & Schou, 2018; Van Damme et al., 2020). The digitization of news, both in production and distribution, resulted in an increasing prevalence of disinformation on digital media. The boundaries between fake information and truth are increasingly blurring (Amaral & Silveira, 2018; Deprez et al., 2018; Van Damme et al., 2020). Because of the potential consequences of disinformation on digital media platforms, academic researchers and policymakers address the increased importance of tackling disinformation worldwide (EU Digital Services Act, 2022). 
The production and dissemination of disinformation can have a range of destructive consequences, such as polarising public debates or being a threat to our democracies. That is problematic because news consumers who lack accurate information could become unable to form a reasoned and informed opinion to participate in the public debate (Deprez & Van Leuven, 2020).According to previous research, in particular, young audiences mainly consume news they find online and they seem to have difficulties in verifying the information they encounter online (Amaral & Silveira, 2018; Deprez et al., 2018; Heuer & Breiter, 2018). They are also increasingly sceptic, and even distrusting, toward journalism (Van Damme et al., 2022). 
Despite the concerns about fake versus truth are increasing, there is still a willingness among people to consume news on digital platforms. As a consequence, the question arises to what extent young adults trust online news. With this in mind, this paper seeks to answer the following question: Which factors such as media literacy could predict trust in news on digital media platforms among Flemish young adults? And furthermore, which factors are the best predictors for trust in online news?
The literature review of the study shows that the broader term of disinformation, fake news, can take different forms such as parody, satire, or hate speech. Within literature, there is no agreement on the definition of fake news. Nevertheless, Wardle (2020) made an attempt to categorize the umbrella term into the framework The Age of Information Disorder. In a venn diagram, Wardle (2020) made the categorization of fake news into mis-, mal- and disinformation. The latter is the most dangerous one for news consumers and journalists whether they could trust news they encounter in their daily life.  
For this pilot study, the attitude of 279 respondents aged between 18-34 in Flanders was measured via an online survey. The data collection was conducted from December 2021 to March 2022 via a convenience sampling. 
Based on previous research (Barakat et al., 2021; Deprez et al., 2018; Heuer & Breiter, 2018; Herrero-Diz et al., 2019; Marchi, 2012;  Stefanone et al., 2019; Tandoc Jr et al., 2017), the study explores four factors which could be predictive for trust in online news. It takes a look at the potential prediction of age, education, social media contacts and media literacy on trust in online news messages. 
Next to that, the study takes a look at the extent to which the number of likes/shares/comments of an online news message is correlated with trust. In addition, the study examines whether trust in news is correlated with the question if news consumers would interact with online news when they trust that message.
The results show that the respondent's age and his/her social media contacts could have an influence on trust in online news. Also, the number of likes/shares/comments of a news item are positively correlated with trust, just as trust is positively correlated with the respondent’s willingness to interact with that online news if they seem to have trust in that news message.
Surprisingly, media literacy has not a predictive influence on trust in online news. Also, the education level has no influence. That arises questions whether media literacy is so important for trust in online news and for tackling disinformation. According to previous research (Tandoc Jr et al., 2017), media literacy facilitates the identification of truth versus fake news in online contexts. Individuals who has more knowledge about (news) media would be better in recognizing fake news. This contradiction means that further research about media and digital literacy is still needed in the continuously evolving digital age.}},
  author       = {{D'haeseleer, Stephanie and Evens, Tom and Van Damme, Kristin}},
  booktitle    = {{Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap 2023, Abstracts}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  location     = {{Enschede, the Netherlands}},
  pages        = {{2}},
  title        = {{Fact or fake? A quantitative study of trust in online news}},
  year         = {{2023}},
}