Shortcuts to trust: Relying on cues to judge online news from unfamiliar sources on digital platforms

Amy A. Ross Arguedas, Sumitra Badrinathan, Camila Mont’Alverne, Benjamin Toff, Richard Fletcher, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scholarship has increasingly sought solutions for reversing broad declines in levels of trust in news in many countries. Some have advocated for news organizations to adopt strategies around transparency or audience engagement, but there is limited evidence about whether such strategies are effective, especially in the context of news consumption on digital platforms where audiences may be particularly likely to encounter news from sources previously unknown to them. In this paper, we use a bottom-up approach to understand how people evaluate the trustworthiness of online news. We inductively analyze interviews and focus groups with 232 people in four countries (Brazil, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States) to understand how they judge the trustworthiness of news when unfamiliar with the source. Drawing on prior credibility research, we identify three general categories of cues that are central to heuristic evaluations of news trustworthiness online when brands are unfamiliar: content, social, and platform cues. These cues varied minimally across countries, although larger differences were observed by platform. We discuss implications of these findings for scholarship and trust-building efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported by the Meta Journalism Project (CTR00730).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • cues
  • heuristics
  • online news consumption
  • platforms
  • Trust in news


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