Are Online News Consumers Sophisticated Enough to Detect Media Bias?

Last registered on May 17, 2021

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Are Online News Consumers Sophisticated Enough to Detect Media Bias?
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0007680
Initial registration date
May 15, 2021

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
May 17, 2021, 10:29 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Locations

Region

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
Harvard University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Peking University
PI Affiliation
Peking University

Additional Trial Information

Status
On going
Start date
2021-04-20
End date
2021-06-30
Secondary IDs
Abstract
This project examines whether news consumers are sophisticated enough to detect media bias using both observational and experimental data. The observational data from a Chinese micro-blogging platform suggests that users are more likely to repost "inconsistent" news, defined as news with attitudes different from the media outlet's usual attitudes. To explore whether this reposting pattern reflects strategic thinking, we run an online experiment that randomly varies whether news sources are revealed to news consumers and tests its effect on their inference about the importance of news, tendency of reposting etc.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Huang, Yihong, Juanjuan Meng and Xi Weng. 2021. "Are Online News Consumers Sophisticated Enough to Detect Media Bias? ." AEA RCT Registry. May 17. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.7680
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
Intervention Start Date
2021-04-20
Intervention End Date
2021-06-30

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Probability of reposting news, inference about the importance of the news, level of agreement with the news
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We run an online experiment to test if news consumers take media bias into account when inferring the importance of news and considering whether to repost it. We randomly assign participants into two groups and show them different information related to the four pieces of news (two consistent with the media outlet's general attitudes, and two inconsistent ones).

- For those in the treatment group, we reveal the media outlet that posted the news. We also include a short introduction about the general attitudes of the media outlets before presenting the news.
- For those in the control group, they don't know which media outlet posted the news.

After reading each piece of news, participants answer the following questions:
- To what extent do you agree with the opinion expressed in the news above?
- Please guess the Baidu index of the news above. (Proxy for the importance of the news)
- What's the probability that you repost the news above?
- If you decide to repost the news above, will you add comments to show support/rejection?
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
The treatment is not clustered.
Sample size: planned number of observations
600 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
600 individuals, 300 in the treatment group and 300 in the control group.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
No
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?
No

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials