Why fact-checking fails? Factors influencing the effectiveness of corrective messages countering misinformation on social media: A comparison of Hong Kong, the United States, and the Netherlands

  • ZHANG, Xinzhi (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project examines the factors influencing the effectiveness of corrective messages countering misinformation on social media. While social media makes people’s exposure to misinformation inevitable, it also serves as a place where false information is corrected. When governments, non-governmental organizations, media companies and internet platforms are investing heavily in fact-checking and counter-speech, false beliefs are rarely overcome by simply presenting the facts, however. Both corrective message’s attributes and individuals’ psychological orientations may influence the acceptance of corrective messages. Situated in the literature of political communication and social-psychological communication, this project focuses on three message factors and two psychological factors in improving the accuracy of people’s beliefs after being exposed to misinformation.

Message wise, the present study examines (1) sources of the corrections, i.e., algorithm corrections provided by the media platform versus personal corrections from social peers versus corrections from a third-party fact-checking organization; (2) types of correction, i.e., correction appealing to coherence—referring to the internal contradictions of the misinformation—versus corrections via fact-checking—merely spelling out the corrected fact; and (3) popularity of the correction, i.e., whether the message has been socially- endorsed. Individual wise, the two psychological factors are (1) political attitudes and (2) negative emotions; as both factors influence people’s information processing and their acceptance or denial of messages. The project also considers how misinformation correction mechanisms vary across different issue domains, i.e., politics, health, and marketing. It focuses on the beneficial-privacy debate in the big data technologies applied in these digital initiatives. The project further investigates how beliefs trigger people’s attitudes and behavioral responses to these digital initiatives, such as adoption, resistance, or seeking more related information.

To improve the generalizability, the present study is a cross-national comparative study focusing on Hong Kong, the U.S., and the Netherlands, three wired and technologically advanced societies but public’s private concern on big data technologies is heightened by recent controversial events. Comparative online experiments will be implemented in each society, with a between-subject pretest-posttest design to explore the causal relationship between message attributes, psychological orientations, belief accuracy, and people’s reactions to digital initiatives. Results are expected to help public sectors, media organizations, fact-checking professionals, and technical companies to design effective counter-messages debunking misinformation. The project also contributes to the literature on the socio-psychological aspect of political communication countering misinformation and offers conceptual generalizations on the creation of an informed public in the era of information disorder.
Effective start/end date1/09/2031/08/22

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being


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