How Do Users Examine Online Messages to Determine If They Are Credible? An Eye-Tracking Study of Digital Literacy, Visual Attention to Metadata, and Success in Misinformation Identification

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Abstract

Although previous studies examined the role of digital literacy in successful identification of misinformation, scant scholarly attention has been given to users’ attention to metadata as informative areas that attest to message credibility. This study introduces a novel approach and methodology to contribute to our understanding of how users evaluate and identify misinformation, and the relationship between users’ ocular attention to metadata, misinformation identification, and digital literacy. In an eye-tracking study, participants were asked to rate the credibility of online messages posted on social media and web pages. Throughout the session, participants’ eye movements were recorded. The results indicate that digital literacy predicts successful identification of online misinformation, as well as webpage scan patterns, specifically devoting attention and focusing gaze at metadata areas that provide cues attesting to the credibility of the messages. In addition, successful identification of misinformation is positively linked to ocular attention to information metadata. In other words, technology-savvy users devote more attention to information metadata, which leads to better identification of misinformation, and they are also directly more successful at identifying misinformation online.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Media and Society
Volume9
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2023

Keywords

  • credibility
  • data literacy
  • digital literacy
  • digital skills
  • eye-tracking
  • fake news
  • metadata
  • misinformation
  • social media

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