Assessing the credibility of information sources in times of uncertainty: online debate about Finland's NATO membership

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This article aims to elaborate the context-sensitive nature of credibility assessment by examining how such judgments are made in online discussion in times of uncertainty caused by Finland's intent to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in spring 2022. The empirical findings draw on the qualitative content analysis of 3,324 posts submitted to a Finnish online discussion in February–March 2022. It was examined how the participants of online discussion assess the credibility of information sources referred to in debates on the NATO membership. It is assumed that the believability of the author of information is indicative of his or her expert power, for example based on the credentials of a scholar, while the credibility of information content, for example the provision of factual evidence is indicative of the source's informational power. Political decision-makers, particularly the President of Finland were assessed as most credible information sources, due to their access to confidential knowledge and long-time experience in politics. The credibility assessments differed more strongly while judging the believability of researchers. On the one hand, their expertise was praised; on the other hand, doubts were presented about their partiality. Fellow participants of online discussion were assessed most negatively because information sources of these types are associated with low expert and informational power. As the study concentrated on credibility assessments made in a Finnish online discussion group, the findings cannot be extended to concern the credibility judgments occurring information in other contexts. The study is among the first to characterize the role of expert and informational power in credibility assessment in times of uncertainty.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-50
Issue number7
Early online date22 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Credility
  • Credibility assessment
  • Expert power
  • Informational power
  • Information credibility
  • Online discussion
  • Uncertainty

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 3


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