User engagement with political “facts” in the context of the fake news phenomenon

Rita Marcella (School of Creative and Cultural Business, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)
Graeme Baxter (School of Creative and Cultural Business, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)
Agnieszka Walicka (Aberdeenshire Libraries, Oldmeldrum, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Publication date: 9 September 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present the results of a study that explored human behaviour in response to political “facts” presented online by political parties in Scotland.

Design/methodology/approach

The study consisted of interactive online interviews with 23 citizens in North-East Scotland, in the run-up to the 2017 UK General Election.

Findings

Participants demonstrated cognitive and critical responses to facts but little affective reaction. They judged facts swiftly and largely intuitively, providing evidence that facts are frequently consumed, accepted or rejected without further verification processes. Users demonstrated varying levels of engagement with the information they consume, and subject knowledge may influence the extent to which respondents trust facts, in previously unanticipated ways. Users tended to notice facts with which they disagreed and, in terms of prominence, particularly noted and responded to facts which painted extremely negative or positive pictures. Most acknowledged limitations in capacity to interrogate facts, but some were delusionally confident.

Originality/value

Relatively little empirical research has been conducted exploring the perceived credibility of political or government information online. It is believed that this and a companion study are the first to have specifically investigated the Scottish political arena. This paper presents a new, exploratory fact interrogation model, alongside an expanded information quality awareness model.

Keywords

Citation

Marcella, R., Baxter, G. and Walicka, A. (2019), "User engagement with political “facts” in the context of the fake news phenomenon", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 75 No. 5, pp. 1082-1099. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-11-2018-0180

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Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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