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Introducing computing and IT
Introducing computing and IT

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4.2 The number of myths

While most sites contained factual information, myths were found on 16.7% of the websites studied. Negative search terms returned 28 useful results; on average, each of these results contained 1.93 myths about vaccination. Each of the 27 sites found using neutral search terms contained an average of 0.53 myths, while positive search terms resulted in pages with 0.40 myths apiece.

Activity 10 (exploratory) Likelihood of encountering false information in search results

How much more likely were users to encounter false information when using negative search terms than when they used (a) neutral and (b) positive terms?


  • a.They were 1.93 / 0.53 = 3.64 times more likely to see false information using negative search terms than neutral terms.
  • b.They were 1.93 / 0.40 = 4.83 times more likely to see false information than if they used positive terms.

The study shows that the choice of search term dramatically alters the likelihood that someone searching for information about vaccination will see falsehoods. A parent who is concerned about the possible risks of vaccination, and who is likely to use a negative term such as vaccine risk, is nearly five times more likely to see a myth than one who uses a positive search term such as vaccine benefits.