881   Insight talk

How an Online Parenting Website Will Help Us Fix the Fake News Crisis

Author: Andy Ridgway
University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom

An online parenting website may not seem like the most obvious place to find solutions to the fake science news crisis. But the website’s discussion forum provides useful insights how decisions are made about what is trusted online - a key aspect of the fake news problem. Here early results from a study of forum posts on the parenting website will be presented. The posts provide an indication of the types of information, in terms of its source and content, that are trusted by forum members.

One thing is clear. Traditional indicators of the credibility of information commonly used in science communication practice are not being employed to make decisions by forum users on what they trust. Instead, something else entirely appears to be happening. What makes this particularly interesting is that the information the parents are reading on the forum often relates to something of central importance to them – the health of their children.

While some of the findings of this research will be a cause for concern for those involved in science communication practice and society more broadly in this age of democratized information provision, they also point towards some practical solutions to the challenge of fake news.

The research uses a Social Practice Theory perspective and the forum posts were coded and analysed quantitatively and qualitatively. The results presented will show the nature of the online interactions and what they highlight about trust. The results demonstrate the increasing need to form a sense of genuine connection with audiences and participants in conversations about science - connections forged through shared experience. So how can those engaged in science communication, both as individuals and institutions, forge authentic connections so that it is their voices that are heard rather than the purveyors of fake news?

Co-author: Andy Ridgway
Science Communication Unit, University of the West of England,

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