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Encountering misinformation online: antecedents of trust and distrust and their impact on the intensity of Facebook use

Yang Cheng (North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA)
Zifei Fay Chen (University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 4 December 2020

Issue publication date: 15 March 2021




This study focused on the impact of misinformation on social networking sites. Through theorizing and integrating literature from interdisciplinary fields such as information behavior, communication and relationship management, this study explored how misinformation on Facebook influences users' trust, distrust and intensity of Facebook use.


This study employed quantitative survey research and collected panel data via an online professional survey platform. A total of 661 participants in the USA completed this study, and structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to test the theoretical model using Amos 20.


Based on data from an online questionnaire (N = 661) in the USA, results showed that information trustworthiness and elaboration, users' self-efficacy of detecting misinformation and prescriptive expectancy of the social media platform significantly predicted both trust and distrust toward Facebook, which in turn jointly influenced users' intensity of using this information system.


This study contributes to the growing body of literature on information and relationship management and digital communication from several important aspects. First, this study disclosed the underlying cognitive psychological and social processing of online misinformation and addressed the strategies for future system design and behavioral intervention of misinformation. Second, this study systematically examined both trust and distrust as cognitive and affective dimensions of the human mindsets, encompassed the different components of the online information behavior and enriched one’s understanding of how misinformation affected publics' perceptions of the information system where it appeared. Last but not least, this study advanced the relationship management literature and demonstrated that a trustful attitude exerted a stronger influence on the intensity of Facebook use than distrust did.

Peer review

The peer review history for this article is available at:



Funding: Junior Faculty Development Award Program, North Carolina State University.


Cheng, Y. and Chen, Z.F. (2021), "Encountering misinformation online: antecedents of trust and distrust and their impact on the intensity of Facebook use", Online Information Review, Vol. 45 No. 2, pp. 372-388.



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