Fil Menczer, Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering Luddy Distinguished Professor of Informatics, is part of a five-person research team that has received a prestigious Alford P. Sloan Foundation grant.
The project, Unfollowing low-quality sources: A field experiment to mitigate the harm of online misinformation, is designed to encourage users to decrease their exposure to untrustworthy sources, and will measure the effects of this intervention on real-world behavior.
The goal is to promote informed decision making and provide guidance to platforms such as Twitter, as well as to policymakers and researchers, on ways to counter misinformation about COVID-19 and other topics.
“This project will let us explore what happens when social media users are incentivized to unfollow accounts responsible for low-credibility content in their news feeds,” Menczer said. “Our research tells us that a large portion of misinformation circulating online originates from a relatively small number of superspreaders. Our hope is that even a limited intervention might lead to sizable benefits.”
The Sloan Foundation makes grants primarily to support original research and education related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economics.
The grant is part of the Mercury Project, which is a consortium of researchers working around the world to build a healthier information environment and find cost-effective and scalable interventions that build vaccine demand and support science-based health decision making.
The Mercury Project is organized by the Social Science Research Council, which is an interdisciplinary and international network of social scientists and practitioners dedicated to galvanizing knowledge and mobilizing it for the common good.
“We are thrilled by Fil’s winning of the Sloan Foundation grant,” said XiaoFeng Wang, associate dean for research, and James H. Rudy Professor of Computer Science, Engineering and Informatics. “Fil is a world-renowned expert in countering misinformation and a great asset to the Luddy School. I believe his new project will continue to put Luddy at the forefront of innovation in this area.”
Menczer is working with IU Media School Provost Professor Betsi Grabe, as well as researchers from Dartmouth College, the University of Maryland and Tel Aviv University.
“The experiment will provide platforms and policymakers with important guidance about how to effectively counter harmful misinformation, for example about health," Menczer said.