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Do you pay users to fight misinformation?

Do you pay users to fight misinformation?

The context behind this experiment is that over the years, some social networks have experimented, or are still experimenting, with methods whereby their users are encouraged to verify questionable information. The most famous of these initiatives: X's (formerly Twitter) “Community Feedback”, which takes the form of warnings “attached” to a message, when users – who have been approved by the platform – prove, with supporting sources, that the message is false or misleading.

But the big weakness of these “ratings” has always been that they depend on the good faith of a minority of users. How can we “motivate” them? This is the question that five researchers from France, Germany and Italy tried to answer, based on an experiment in which they recruited 4,000 British participants in a “simulated social network environment” similar to Facebook.

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The goal they were given was to check whether the messages were “scientifically correct” or not.

The result, write these researchers Their article Posted on January 25 Review misinformationSimply making participants aware that their ratings would be used by other participants “had no effect” on their performance—that is, their production of checks that were factually accurate. On the other hand, exposing participants to previous participants' “presentations” increased their ability to distinguish truth from falsehood among the news presented to them.

But what had the biggest impact was money. More participants conducted research to verify information when there was a financial reward. It even had an impact on the quality of their checks.

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The same team of researchers has already put their finger on this “motive.” research Published in 2022: Then they noticed that the tendency of simple users to carry out what experts call “lateral searching”, i.e. leaving a site to verify information elsewhere, increased when there was a financial reward. “Side search » It is a good method when it comes, for example, to checking the authenticity of a site or an author: this is the method followed by journalists and others, but it is often neglected by other users, because it requires more effort than just skimming the original site.

However, the five researchers recognize that there is a significant limit to their expertise: in the context of combating misinformation, if we choose to donate money, who will pay? Monetary incentives are “less adjustable than non-monetary incentives because their costs increase linearly with the number of users.” This is not enough to significantly “incentivize” the companies behind social networks. Assuming they want to try the experience…