Saling noted that while possible misinformation was often shared in order to seek an opinion about its veracity rather than to mislead others, it was still "very problematic" and risked engendering false beliefs in others.
"The fact that the subscribers shared information of questionable accuracy suggests that people are not aware of how problematic sharing possible misinformation and fake news is."
Russell Skelton, the director of RMIT ABC Fact Check, said the survey shone a light on the urgent need for greater media literacy amongst people who rely on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to stay connected.
"We know that a majority of news consumers in Australia absorb the news from social media rather than the legacy media outlets, a trend that has fuelled the waves of misinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic and which threaten public health and safety," he said.
Equipping social media users with the skills to be far more discerning in what they chose to share, as well as teaching the basic skills to sort fact from fiction was an "ongoing challenge", according to Skelton.
"We also need to know more about why people share misinformation and the impact of that. This survey is a first step."
Skelton said RMIT University had launched FactLab to debunk misinformation online and develop critical awareness about its origins and spread. The hub also conducts original research into the digital news ecosystem.
'No one is immune to misinformation: An investigation of misinformation sharing by subscribers to a fact-checking newsletter', with Lauren Saling, Devi Mallal, Falk Scholer, Russell Skelton and Damiano Spina is published in PLOS ONE (DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0255702).
Story: Ellen McCutchan