Fake news headlines fool American adults about 75% of the time, according to a large-scale new survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for BuzzFeed News.
The survey also found that people who cite Facebook as a major source of news are more likely to view fake news headlines as accurate than those who rely less on the platform for news.
This survey is the first large-scale public opinion research study into the fake news phenomenon that has had a sweeping effect on global politics, and that recently caused a gunman to threaten a DC pizza place. The results paint a picture of news consumers with little ability to evaluate the headlines that often fly toward them without context on social media platforms.
They also — surprisingly — suggest that consumers are likely to believe even false stories that don’t fit their ideological bias.
Just look at this recent piece of fake news in the Twitter embed below. Reports that a woman was arrested after training squirrels to attack her ex-boyfriend are completely false. It never happened, it was made up, simple.
so, I have some questions. 🙋♂️https://t.co/VOoHdycuM2
— PH_Nole (@PH_Nole) 3 April 2017
According to Snopes, the fake news story originated on World News Daily Report, a website well known for publishing fake news. The article claimed that 45-year-old Janice Smith was arrested for allegedly capturing 27 squirrels and training them to attack her ex-boyfriend. On the surface, it sounds quite funny but scratch a little deeper and the dangers of fake news broadcasting become more apparent.
When we see and or share false stories our cognitive biases is enacted by the tendency to believe information that is repeated often; also known as confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out facts that confirm your own pre-existing beliefs. This can have dangerous consequences.
Then there is the tendency to believe false information, bizarrely, even after it has been corrected. What sort of example are setting for future generations?
Facebook Tries To Educate
For three days, an advert will appear at the top of users’ news feeds linking them to advice on “how to spot fake news” and subsequently report it. Facebook has recently been criticised for allowing this content to appear on users’ news feeds and doing nothing to clamp down on its reach.
But industry experts have questioned whether the advert would have any serious impact.
Tom Felle, a lecturer in digital journalism at City University told the BBC.
“Until Facebook stops rewarding the architects of fake news with huge traffic, this problem will just get worse,”
Facebook’s new “educational tool” forms part of a longer term strategy designed to track and monitor user behaviour and less third-party fact checkers in regards to the type of information published on the social network. It is thought that users will then have the knowledge to report dubious news stories.
Published in the Guardian, Justice minister Heiko Maas told Bloomberg on Wednesday that “social network providers are responsible when their platforms are misused to propagate hate crimes and fake news”.
Here is a link to the survey: Most Americans Who See Fake News Believe It, New Survey Says