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Online silence: why do people not challenge others when posting misinformation?

Selin Gurgun (Faculty of Science and Technology, Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)
Emily Arden-Close (Faculty of Science and Technology, Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)
Keith Phalp (Faculty of Science and Technology, Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)
Raian Ali (College of Science and Engineering, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Doha, Qatar)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 24 November 2022

Issue publication date: 20 November 2023




There is a scarcity of research studies on why people remain inactive when encountering and recognising misinformation online. The main aim of this paper is to provide a groundwork for future research into why users do not challenge misinformation on digital platforms by generating hypotheses through a synthesis of pertinent literature, including organisational behaviour, communication, human-computer interaction (HCI), psychology and education.


Given the lack of directly related literature, this paper synthesised findings from relevant fields where the findings might be relevant, as the tendency to withhold opinions or feedback is a well-documented practice in offline interaction.


Following the analysis of relevant literature, the potential reasons for online silence towards misinformation can be divided into six categories: self-oriented, relationship-oriented, others-oriented, content-oriented, individual characteristics and technical factors.


Although corrections coming from peers can effectively combat misinformation, several studies showed that people in cyberspace do not take such action. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, there has been scarce and virtually non-existent research investigating why people refrain from challenging others who post misinformation online. Thus, this paper attempts to address this gap and identify reasons in adjacent domains. The reasons provide a starting point for researching interventions to reduce reluctance and abstinence regarding the challenge of misinformation. The findings can be beneficial beyond the area of challenging misinformation and are extensible to other types of content and communication that people are hesitant to discuss and challenge, such as online injustice, prejudice and hate speech.



Gurgun, S., Arden-Close, E., Phalp, K. and Ali, R. (2023), "Online silence: why do people not challenge others when posting misinformation?", Internet Research, Vol. 33 No. 5, pp. 1928-1948.



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