Internet users beware, you follow online health rumors (more than counter-rumors) irrespective of risk propensity and prior endorsement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose—The Internet is a breeding ground for rumors. A way to tackle the problem involves the use of counter-rumors—messages that refute rumors. This paper analyzes users’ intention to follow rumors and counter-rumors as a function of two factors: individuals’ risk propensity and messages’ prior endorsement.

Design/methodology/approach—The paper conducted an online experiment. Complete responses from 134 participants were analyzed statistically.

Findings—Risk-seeking users were keener to follow counter-rumors compared with risk-averse ones. No difference was detected in terms of their intention to follow rumors. Users’ intention to follow rumors always exceeded their intention to follow counter-rumors regardless of whether prior endorsement was low or high.

Research limitations/implications—This paper contributes to the scholarly understanding of people’s behavioral responses when unbeknownstly exposed to rumors and counter-rumors on the Internet. Moreover, it dovetails the literature by examining how risk-averse and risk-seeking individuals differ in terms of intention to follow rumors and counter-rumors. It also shows how prior endorsement of such messages drives their likelihood to be followed.

Originality/value—The paper explores the hitherto elusive question: When users are unbeknownstly exposed to both a rumor and its counter-rumor, which entry is likely to be followed more than the other? It also takes into consideration the roles played by individuals’ risk propensity and messages’ prior endorsement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1721-1739
Number of pages19
JournalInformation Technology and People
Issue number7
Early online date1 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • Rumor
  • Counter-rumor
  • RISK
  • Health Information
  • social media
  • intention to follow
  • Prior endorsement

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