Reading, Commenting and Sharing of Fake News: How Online Bandwagons and Bots Dictate User Engagement

Maria D. Molina, Jinping Wang, S. Shyam Sundar, Thai Le, Carlina DiRusso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Do social media users read, comment, and share false news more than real news? Does it matter if the story is written by a bot and whether it is endorsed by many others? We conducted a selective-exposure experiment (N = 171) to answer these questions. Results showed that real articles were more likely to receive “likes” whereas false articles were more likely to receive comments. Users commented more on a bot-written article when it received fewer likes. We explored the psychological mechanisms underlying these findings in Study 2 (N = 284). Data indicate that users’ engagement with online news is largely driven by emotions elicited by news content and heuristics triggered by interface cues, such that curiosity increases consumption of real news, whereas uneasiness triggered by a high number of “likes” encourages comments on fake news.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCommunication Research
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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