Zicklin Professor Wins Fellowship for Research on “Fake News”

Shuting (Ada) Wang, Assistant Professor of Information Systems in the Paul H. Chook Department of Information Systems and Statistics, was one of three Zicklin professors awarded a Eugene M. Lang Junior Faculty Fellowship this year. Prof. Wang received funds to complete her research project, entitled “Seeing Is Believing? How Including a Video in Fake News Influences the Crowd’s Reporting of Fake News to Social Media Platforms.” Pending review, Prof. Wang’s research paper is slated for publication in Management Information Systems Quarterly. She sat down for a Q&A with Zicklin News

Zicklin News: Tell us about your research.

Woman in white shirt and black blazer

Shuting Wang, Assistant Professor of Information Systems

Shuting Wang:  Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are attempting to fight the spread of fake news by implementing systems that allow users to report fake news. Despite such attempts to harness the “wisdom of the crowd” to detect fake news, it remains unclear whether these reporting systems are effective. Notably, concerns have been raised that the popularity of videos may hamper users’ reporting of fake news; this is because the persuasive power of videos may render fake news more deceiving and less likely to be reported. However, the effect is neither theoretically nor empirically straightforward, as including a video in fake news not only influences users’ ability to detect fake news, but also impacts their willingness to report and their engagement to further spread the fake news. Using a unique dataset from a leading social media platform, we empirically examine how including a video in a fake news post affects the number of users reporting the post to the platform. Our results indicate that the inclusion of a video significantly increases the number of users reporting the fake news post to the social media platform. Additionally, we find that text sentiment, especially positive sentiment, in the text of fake news significantly lessens the effect of such videos. 

We contribute to the information systems literature by examining how social media platforms can rely on their users to detect and report fake news and how different formats (e.g., videos and text) of fake news interact to influence users’ reporting. Platform managers should adjust their strategies in leveraging the wisdom of the crowd to combat the proliferation of fake news on social media by considering both the popularity of videos and the role of text sentiment in fake news accordingly.

ZN:  How did you conduct this research?

SW:  With a unique dataset from a large social media platform, we execute pooled regressions and a series of robustness checks to answer our research questions. Randomized experiments and a set of mediation analyses are included to uncover the underlying mechanisms. 

ZN:  Did you use your research in class?

SW: Yes, I teach data mining at Zicklin and I usually use my studies as an example to show how we can use data mining techniques to solve real-world business problems.

ZN:  As a Eugene M. Lang Junior Faculty Fellow, you received funds to further your research. How will this award help you do that? 

SW:  I will use the funding to conduct more experiments, in order to refine the paper and further uncover the underlying mechanisms.

ZN:  Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

SW: This paper is a joint work with Min-Seok Pang, Associate Professor from Temple University, and Paul A. Pavlou, Dean of the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston.