With our current 24/7 news cycle, we’re subject to new information from publications and across social media platforms nearly every second of the day. It’s overwhelming to begin with, but it becomes even worse when you have to sort through fake news as well, something most people didn’t realize was so prominent until the 2016 U.S. elections.
Being aware that fake news exists isn’t enough to remain unsusceptible to it, especially since many fake news articles are well-disguised and widely shared on social media platforms. With the impending U.S. elections this November and the onset of COVID-19, there has been an increase, yet again, of fake news in the media marketplace. However, this time, companies are more prepared and are tackling fake news not just with increased fact-checking from journalists, but through their UX.
In May, Twitter highlighted two of President Donald Trump’s tweets, which falsely stated that mail-in ballots would result in voter fraud. As part of their “civic integrity policy,” Twitter included a link below each tweet that said, “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” This led to another page on the site with information from credible news sources that debunked the President’s statement.
The two tweets in question, and Twitter’s fact-check link, from President Trump’s Twitter page
The platform also began to add a similar label to tweets that falsely connected using 5G to getting COVID-19, a fast-growing conspiracy theory.
WhatsApp, with its 2 billion users worldwide, has become a hotbed for the spreading of false COVID-19 information. And because the information is passed through private groups rather than public feeds, it’s more difficult to regulate.
To combat this, the British and Indian governments and the World Health Organization have created chatbots responsible for sharing accurate information about how COVID-19 is spread, the number of cases in respective countries, travel advice, stay-at-home regulations and what to do if you exhibit symptoms.
India’s Corona Helpdesk Chatbot (Photo from Delhi News)
What UX strategies can YOU implement to combat fake news?
People tend to surround themselves with others who have similar social and political ideologies. Because of this, our social media feeds and the news sources we follow tend to only display information that aligns with our existing opinions. We end up in a sort of bubble. Read Across the Aisle is an app that encourages users to step outside of that bubble and see what others are reading. The app also uses a color scale to mark the bias of news sources — the more blue a source is, the more liberal it leans, and the redder it is, the more conservative. The hope is that the more aware people are of different sources and opinions, the less likely they are to be disillusioned by fake news.
Flagging articles on webpages or social media feeds is an easy way to prevent users from even clicking on fake news. Flock.com has a “fake news detector” for this purpose — any fake articles shared on its platform are visibly flagged with a red icon and any that are proven true are flagged with green. This doesn’t censor any information but makes users aware of the quality of information they’re consuming.
This tip more so applies to email or newsletter platforms, but diverting informative emails/articles from those that are promotions or ads automatically directs users to credible information. Gmail has this feature — the platform automatically separates clickbait and ads from the rest of the emails in each user’s primary inbox.
UX shapes the way people view and interpret information, and it’s hugely important in the fight against fake news. If you or your organization have implemented any other UX strategies to combat misinformation, please include them in the comments below!