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User engagement with political 'facts' in the context of the fake news phenomenon: an exploration of information behaviour.

Marcella, Rita; Baxter, Graeme; Walicka, Agnieszka


Graeme Baxter

Agnieszka Walicka


The purpose of this paper is to present the results of a study that explored human behaviour in response to political ‘facts’ presented online by political parties in Scotland. The study consisted of interactive online interviews with 23 citizens in North-East Scotland, in the run-up to the 2017 UK General Election. Participants demonstrated cognitive and critical responses to facts but little affective reaction. They judged facts swiftly and largely intuitively, providing evidence that facts are frequently consumed, accepted or rejected without further verification processes. Users demonstrated varying levels of engagement with the information they consume, and subject knowledge may influence the extent to which respondents trust facts, in previously unanticipated ways. Users tended to notice facts with which they disagreed and, in terms of prominence, particularly noted and responded to facts which painted extremely negative or positive pictures. Most acknowledged limitations in capacity to interrogate facts, but some were delusionally confident. Relatively little empirical research has been conducted exploring the perceived credibility of political or government information online. It is believed that this, and a companion study, are the first to have specifically investigated the Scottish political arena. This paper presents a new, exploratory Fact Interrogation Model, alongside an expanded Information Quality Awareness Model.


MARCELLA, R., BAXTER, G. and WALICKA, A. 2019. User engagement with political ‘facts’ in the context of the fake news phenomenon: an exploration of information behaviour. Journal of documentation [online], 75(5), pages 1082-1099. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 24, 2019
Online Publication Date Sep 9, 2019
Publication Date Oct 31, 2019
Deposit Date Mar 8, 2019
Publicly Available Date Sep 9, 2019
Journal Journal of documentation
Print ISSN 0022-0418
Electronic ISSN 1758-7379
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 75
Issue 5
Pages 1082-1099
Keywords Information behaviour; Credibility; Fake news; Political parties; Scotland; Alternative facts
Public URL


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