According to Pew Research Center, 62% of American adults are getting news from social media. This poses a problem when social media feeds are filtered to cater to people’s preferences and biases. In addition, people are consuming large amounts of this biased information quickly, in part because of how smartphones and social media are designed. Because of this, we are seeing low critical engagement with information of diverse perspectives and thus a higher susceptibility to fake news. This creates deepening divides between people, increased tribalism, and heightened national tension.
How might we help citizens develop long-term analytical news habits so they can become less susceptible to fake news?
Our team dedicated our graduate capstone project to improving public participation. The rise of fake news during the 2016 election galvanized us to tackle this somewhat wicked problem.
Jake Zukowski, FJORD
UX/UI/Interaction/Visual Design: wireframes, interaction flow, interaction model, design specs, high-fidelity UI, project poster, DUB community slide presentation
Research: expert interviews, competitive assessment, primary research plan, conducted user observations and task analysis session
Synthesis: research insights, design principles, insight diagrams, and research report
Prototyping: paper prototype, digital prototype
Evaluation: conducted prototype test sessions, analyzed data to determine design implications
A cube to help you become a better news consumer.
Burst your news bubble.
Qübe shows you 3 articles on the same topic, each with different biases.
Better detect bias.
A mini-game challenges you to guess an article’s bias before you know it’s source.
Set news goals.
Qübe’s companion app links to your cube and lets you set goals for yourself.
Learn about your news habits.
Stats provide transparency and clarity on how you consume news over time.
We began our research with a literature review of bias psychology, propaganda theory, and behavior change methodologies. Next, we conducted a competitive assessment on Facebook's fake news tagging feature and spoke with experts about information literacy, fake news spread on social media, and social media algorithms.
In spring 2017, Facebook was the first social media platform to unveil a fake news tagging feature for its users. A blog post accompanied this feature educating users on how to fact check. We conducted a task analysis and found several areas of improvement.
What we learned...
The onus is on users to determine if something is fake news prior to reporting it as fake.
There is no way of knowing if something is currently being investigated as fake news.
The tagging system won't work if not enough people flag fake content as fake.
There is no way for people to know their history of engagement with fake news on Facebook.
During our talks, we found that experts were divided on whether or not educating people about fact checking was a viable response to fake news. We decided it was best to determine this for ourselves by conducting user research.
Target Audience: College undergrads
This gave us easy access to a large, politically diverse population with a high rate of social media usage. Undergraduates also have a higher likelihood of first time public participation in the election process, which is impacted by fake news.
We wanted to know…
What fact checking strategies, if any, are most appropriate for college undergrads to discern the validity of information found on social media?
To ensure our target audience was viable for our research question, we observed undergrads' natural tendencies to read news on social media. This was followed by observing how they used social media to get a sense of the day’s news when prompted.
Task Analysis & Think Aloud
We wanted to validate the idea of fact checking on the part of social media user. To understand how people do this without guidance, participants were asked to think aloud while fact checking a news article from a source they don't know. We then introduced a fact checking guide and asked the participants to check a second article from another unfamiliar source.
We generated insights from our research through affinity diagramming.
Trust in news isn't based on logic
1. People trust news based on how it makes them feel, and thus are susceptible to the emotional manipulations of fake news which mimics sensational news.
2. Brand and customer experience contribute to a person’s trust in a news source.
3. People want minimal effort to trust a news source. Once a source has that trust, there is little effort needed to keep it.
Social media feeds bias through personalization
4. The social media system is designed to catch & maintain people’s attention by amplifying their biases.
5. People trust information curated for them by algorithms and do not question that trust.
Fact checking is problematic
6. People are less likely to fact check if they don’t know anything about the topic, in large part because news is not set up to make it easy for the average person to fact check.
7. Fact checking breaks the “flow” experience of social media.
8. People overestimate their natural ability to discern credible content as well as their ability to fact check.
Be ethical when trying to gain a person’s trust.
Insights: 1, 4, 5
Design to keep trust at the surface of any product or experience we design in an ethical way.
Cultivate positive emotions when engaging critical thinking.
Insights: 1, 2, 4, 7, 8
Support the elevation of positive experences with regards to information consumption and critical thinking.
Be easy to do — and understand.
Insights: 3, 6, 8
Embrace a strong design language and keep continuity and transparency in all stages of the design process.
Don’t force a person to act counter-intuitively.
Keep realistic expectations for natural behaviors to help meet people where they are.
Meet people at their literacy level.
Insights: 1, 3, 5, 6
Curate and design the content of any design solution to the natural comfort level of our audience, supporting our other principles.
Keep decisions transparent and information provenance apparent.
Insights: 1, 2, 5, 6
People have a tendency to overestimate their own abilities based on assumptions, and transparency will help mitigate this.
The opportunity space
We knew solutions requiring non-critical thinking would not impact the problem space, but solutions requiring a large amount of critical thinking, such as fact checking, are also not appropriate. Our sweet spot lies in the middle, and there we identified bias exposure, slowing news consumption, and news literacy education as the most valuable avenues of exploration.
Over a two week period, we conducted 5 team ideation workshops and generated 130 ideas with our three design areas in mind. To narrow, we held two sessions of dot voting. First we determined which ideas were potentially the least desirable, feasible, and viable. On the remaining ideas, we voted on which ideas had the most desirable, feasible, and viable to narrow down to our top five.
Statue of Insight
A visualization of your Facebook information habits through a moving, morphing physical statue.
A beautiful artifact for your space that reveals a news article every 24 hours.
A system connecting people to discuss current events during meetup-style sessions at sponsored public locations.
The Knowledge Walkabout
Autonomous slow moving robots spout opposing opinions about a given topic/area in public.
A Jenga competition that facilitates conversations about political views and biases.
We fleshed out our top five ideas to gain a better picture of the value each one brought to the problem space. After this, we mapped each idea to our design principles noting strengths and weaknesses. We also looked at the difficulty in realizing each idea due to limitations in time and resources. Lastly, we again mapped the ideas to desirability, feasibility, and viability, which showed us that two of our ideas could be combined into one.