Six-Week Facebook Break Reduces Belief in Fake News, Lessens Political Engagement, Affects Voter Turnout

A recent study has found that taking a break from Facebook for six weeks can greatly reduce a person’s likelihood of believing fake news. The research, published in the journal PNAS, is the biggest experiment of its kind. It included more than 35,000 users of Facebook and Instagram who chose to disconnect during the 2020 US Presidential election.

Researchers worked together with Meta, the parent company of social networks. Meta provided them with access to data and algorithms from the platform. This was during a time when there was a lot of fake news on Facebook about the presidential election.

The results of the study are quite revealing. People who stopped using Facebook were less likely to believe misinformation once they returned to the platform. However, these same people also engaged less in political content on social media after their break.

The findings of the study can be summarized into four main points. First, not using Facebook led to reduced political participation, especially online. Second, while stopping Facebook use did not significantly change overall knowledge levels, it did seem to decrease knowledge of general news and possibly reduce belief in misinformation.

Third, the study suggests that not using Facebook might have lowered the number of people voting for Donald Trump in the election, in which he was defeated by joe Biden. The report noted a decrease in positive views about Trump, lower voter turnout among republicans, and higher turnout amount democrats due to Facebook deactivation.

Lastly, the study found that neither Facebook nor Instagram deactivation had any significant effect on how divided people felt about issues or candidates. Despite ongoing claims from Trump’s camp about voter fraud and conspiracy theories about voting machines, the study indicated no effect from social media use on these perceptions.

Courts in the US, including the Supreme Court, have rejected numerous legal challenges from Trump regarding the election results.

Image: DIW-AIgen

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