- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2019

President Trump could be morally justified in his criticism of fake news — that tricky misinformation that appears real but is laden with agenda, ulterior motives or sensationalism.

“Fake news feels less immoral to share when we’ve seen it before” said the Association for Psychological Science, which has published new research revealing this unexpected phenomenon.

“People who repeatedly encounter a fake news item may feel less and less unethical about sharing it on social media, even when they don’t believe the information,” the group reported.

The new research from the London Business School found that seeing a fake headline just once leads individuals to “temper their disapproval of the misinformation” when they see it a second, third or fourth time.

“Repeated encounters with fake news lends a ring of truthfulness to it that can increase people’s tendency to give it a moral pass, regardless of whether they believe it,” said the research, which tracked the reactions of 2,500 people who were exposed to fake news

“We suggest that efforts to fight misinformation should consider how people judge the morality of spreading it, not just whether they believe it,” said Daniel A. Effron, the associate professor of organizational behavior who led the research.

He also believes the findings have important implications for policymakers and social media companies trying to curb the spread of misinformation online.

“The results should be of interest to citizens of contemporary democracies, Misinformation can stoke political polarization and undermine democracy, so it is important for people to understand when and why it spreads,” Mr. Effron said.

The research was published Wednesday in Psychological Science, an academic journal.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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