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Ethics Institute Study Finds Broad Bipartisan Support For Social Media ‘Labeling’ to Counter Misinformation, Problematic Speech

09/16/21 - BOSTON, MA - Photo Illustration of social media applications on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

There is broad bipartisan support among self-identified liberals and conservatives that social media companies should add warning labels to posts that contain misleading information, or that could lead to the spread of misinformation, data from a new study by Northeastern researchers in the College of Arts, Media and Design shows. 

Much of the polling on content labeling has been conducted around the U.S. presidential election. But the results of the national survey, published on Wednesday, may speak to new concerns about misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly surrounding the use of vaccines and other health protocols, says John Wihbey, associate professor of journalism and media innovation at Northeastern and co-author of the study.

“We’re in a new moment, in a new phase of the pandemic—a moment where we can get a slightly purer sense of what the public thinks about these issues,” Wihbey says.

Over the summer, the team of Northeastern researchers polled more than 1,400 people in the U.S. through an academic survey platform, called Prolific. Half of the participants said they use Twitter occasionally or more frequently, and 68% said they use Facebook occasionally or more frequently. 

The survey was published jointly with Northeastern’s Ethics Institute as part of a broader effort examining potentially new approaches to content labeling on social media platforms. The study’s co-authors include Garrett Morrow, a doctoral student studying political science; Myojung Chung, assistant professor of journalism and media advocacy; and Mike Peacey, associate professor of economics.

Read more about the study here.