Using Legal Design to Combat Misinformation and Fake News

new technologies May 26, 2023

The way people receive information has drastically changed throughout the years. The internet has become a more significant and accessible way to stay updated on various topics, but fake news and misinformation can run rampant on social media and other websites. Sensationalist stories and clickbait content with exaggerated details are created to drive site traffic. Social media users can easily make up rumors and stories for likes and go viral, quickly spreading false information. Not only does fake news affect people’s perceptions of certain topics and events, but companies and brands can also face repercussions when utilizing fake news or shady websites.

Misinformation and fake news are complex and challenging to handle and resolve. This false content doesn’t just stay on the internet; it can impact people’s real lives and views. When using legal design to combat misinformation and fake news, justice can be made more understandable and accessible. A more efficient system and a better understanding of the law can help people be more aware of how they should and should not engage with fake news.

Here’s how legal design can be used to fight fake news and misinformation:

Preventing advertising on fake news websites

Fake news websites can sometimes be hard to distinguish from genuine news, making it dangerous for brands looking for sites to place their advertisements. A company may unknowingly end up doing so, and the association of their brand with misinformation can be detrimental to their reputation and impact business. Using legal design to avoid and manage these situations can help companies be more aware of fake news and how they can return from a crisis.

Legal teams can assist the company in designing a system that can help them avoid entangling themselves in misinformation. They can guide relevant departments to create a process to check websites and their content before advertising on the site. Then they can ensure that their ad copies have a 10/10 quality score. This would entail that their ads are relevant, on appropriate sites, and provide a good user experience, making clicks cheaper. If they advertise on a fake news page, efficient processes created with design thinking can make it simpler for the brand to bounce back and regain user trust. With a system that is easier to understand, brands can prevent the spread of and association with fake news to preserve their reputation.

Designing websites and features against misinformation

Design is more than just visual appeal; intelligent design elements and features allow readers and visitors to build trust in the source, which can be both advantageous and alarming. Fake news sites are adept at emulating reputable sources, tricking readers into believing fabricated headlines and stories. These fake articles can then be shared and circulated, muddling up the facts and the lies. When building or upgrading a website, adding features or elements can help readers know that the content they’re reading is factual.

A legal team can work with website developers or creative departments to guide them in creating such features. Legal design thinking can ensure that these elements are understandable to the reader so that there won’t be any confusion when verifying the facts. For example, when displaying brand statistics or research on the website, website designers can make sources easily discoverable to readers so they can access factual information.

Social media sites like Twitter have already begun to employ some elements to the site to prevent fake news from spreading. The community notes feature allows others to contribute context to tweets that may provide incorrect information or link to fake articles. By attaching it below the tweet, readers get immediate information that can counter the false information. Though it’s still a new element, it’s an important direction that can prevent misinformation from turning ugly.

Fake news and misinformation can be difficult to combat, and it’s a dangerous large-scale issue that must be addressed. However, making essential steps in adjusting processes and visual design elements in the age of technology and the online world can make a vast difference. Legal design takes a human approach to tackling false information. When you design with all kinds of people in mind, not just the experts or the educated, you can make the truth easier to understand and justice simpler to access.

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Contributed by: J Bethell


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