On Wednesday, the panel’s researchers presented the summary of its first two studies, which reviewed 4,798 peer-reviewed publications examining misleading information on social media and aggregated the findings on the effectiveness of countermeasures to it.
The findings suggest that the most effective responses to false information online are labeling content as “disputed” or flagging sources of state media and publishing corrective information, typically in the form of debunking rumors and disinformation.
Far less certain, the report argues, is the effectiveness of public and government efforts to pressure social media giants like Facebook and Twitter to take down content, as well as internal company algorithms that suspend or play down offending accounts. The same is true of media literacy programs that train people to identify sources of misinformation.
“We’re not saying that information literacy programs don’t work,” said Sebastián Valenzuela, a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile who oversaw the study. “What we’re saying is that we need more evidence that they work.”
The panel’s inspirational model, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was founded in 1988, a time when climate change was equally contested. Its scientists, working under the auspices of the United Nations, toiled for decades before its assessments and recommendations came to be recognized as scientific consensus.