A mockup of an over-the-top news headline that reads "ALIENS!". In front of it is a reminder: "If shocking claims in a headline sound unbelievable, then they probably are."

List tips for checking accuracy of shared headlines

Reduce the spread of mis- and disinformation

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What It Is

A simple list of tips that can be followed to check the accuracy of headlines on social media

(e.g., Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.).

When To Use It

This should appear either during the sharing of news articles, or as an intermittent reminder, or public-service-type announcement, from the platform itself to the user to bear the accuracy of headlines in mind.

What Is Its Intended Impact

People exposed to the tips were significantly more skeptical of false news stories.

It's noted in testing that users also became slightly more skeptical of legitimate news stories, but not nearly to the same degree.

Evidence That It Works

Evidence That It Works

Consistent with a prior hypothesis that media literacy interventions might reduce belief in false news stories, researchers from MIT in both the United States and in India exposed random participants to a media literacy intervention. In the study, participants were presented with reminders for how to gauge the accuracy of a news source.

Results from the first wave of the US study show a decrease of nearly 0.2 points on a 4-point scale, with a higher score denoting a stronger belief that the article is factual. Similar effects of the media literacy intervention are observed on the perceived accuracy of hyperpartisan headlines. The decrease in score suggests that participants, when prompted to think about accuracy in more actionable ways, were more critical of sharing articles in their newsfeed.

Why It Matters

With the understanding that poor digital media literacy strongly correlates to belief in hoaxes and misinformation, finding a way to dispel falsehoods is critical to bringing users to a shared plane of understanding from which to cooperate. The authors of this study concluded that their findings were "largely encouraging" and that they suggest that, "relatively short, scalable interventions could be effective in fighting misinformation" globally.

Special Considerations


This intervention entry currently lacks photographic evidence (screencaps, &c.)


A digital media literacy intervention increases discernment between mainstream and false news in the United States and India

Andrew M. Guess, Michael Lerner, Benjamin Lyons, & al.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A
June 20, 2020

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