Digital Literacy Doesn’t Stop the Spread of Misinformation

Article by David Rand, and Nathaniel Sirlin: “There has been tremendous concern recently over misinformation on social media. It was a pervasive topic during the 2020 U.S. presidential election, continues to be an issue during the COVID-19 pandemic and plays an important part in Russian propaganda efforts in the war on Ukraine. This concern is plenty justified, as the consequences of believing false information are arguably shaping the future of nations and greatly affecting our individual and collective health.

One popular theory about why some people fall for misinformation they encounter online is that they lack digital literacy skills, a nebulous term that describes how a person navigates digital spaces. Someone lacking digital literacy skills, the thinking goes, may be more susceptible to believing—and sharing—false information. As a result, less digitally literate people may play a significant role in the spread of misinformation.

This argument makes intuitive sense. Yet very little research has actually investigated the link between digital literacy and susceptibility to believe false information. There’s even less understanding of the potential link between digital literacy and what people share on social media. As researchers who study the psychology of online misinformation, we wanted to explore these potential associations….

When we looked at the connection between digital literacy and the willingness to share false information with others through social media, however, the results were different. People who were more digitally literate were just as likely to say they’d share false articles as people who lacked digital literacy. Like the first finding, the (lack of) connection between digital literacy and sharing false news was not affected by political party affiliation or whether the topic was politics or the pandemic…(More)”