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Doing your own research is dangerous and turning people into “conspiracy theorists”

People who “do their own research” are likely to reject the mainstream narrative and are much more likely to believe in so-called “conspiracy theories,” according to a new study published this week in the scientific journal Nature.

According to the new research, people should be discouraged from doing their own research and encouraged to accept the official narrative from the mainstream media, writes Thepeoplesvoice .

 

“The four most dangerous words are 'do your own research,'” says Chirag Shah, professor of information sciences at the University of Washington. “It seems counterintuitive because I'm an educator and we encourage students to do this. The problem is that people don't know how to do this.”

 

In other words, the elites want us to implicitly trust the mainstream media and stop asking questions or doing our own research because we “don't know how to do this.”

Joshua Tucker, co-author and co-director of NYU's Center for Social Media and Politics, told Vice's Motherboard about the study.

 

“The question here was what happens when people come across an article online that they are not sure whether it is true or false, so they look for more information about it using a search engine. You see exactly these kinds of suggestions in many digital literacy guides.”

 

Joshua Tucker explained that the research team was interested in how people verify breaking news that just happened and hasn't yet had a chance to be verified by fact-checkers like Snopes or PolitiFact.

 

Vice message :

In the first experiment of their study, which started in late 2019, some 3,000 people in the US evaluated the accuracy of news articles published in a 48-hour period on topics such as COVID-19 vaccines, the Trump impeachment trial and climate events. Some articles came from reputable sources, while others were deliberately misleading. Half of the participants were encouraged to search online to help them vet the articles. At the same time, all articles were labeled "true," "false or misleading" or "undetermined" by professional fact-checkers.

 

People who were encouraged to search for more information online were 19 percent more likely to judge a false or misleading article as fact, compared to those who were not encouraged.


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In four other experiments, conducted between 2019 and 2021, researchers found that even if people initially rated an article as misleading, roughly 18 percent of them changed their minds and said the article was true after searching online (compared with just under 6 percent changing from true to false). This was true even if the articles were months rather than hours old or if the news had been well covered, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“It was incredible to us how remarkably consistent this effect was across multiple different studies that we conducted,” Tucker said. “That is really the power of this work. This isn't just 'Oh we did one study.' We are very, very confident that this is happening.”

 

The researchers showed that this effect is caused by the quality of the information that Google's search engine produces. In part this was due to what are called data breaches or, as Tucker put it, “the internet is full of junk theory.”

According to Shah, Google should “help” people understand that doing their own research is dangerous.

 

“We need to equip them with the right tools. These tools can and should come from tech companies and search service providers.” They add that it is not up to them or governments to monitor content. “It is not only technically unfeasible, but also morally and socially wrong to suppress everything.”

 

“First we have to have that awareness of 'Just because you're doing your research doesn't mean that's enough.' The more awareness people have, the more likely we are to get people to think twice about the information they read,” Shah said.

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