Fake news is a problem. That much, the American public seems to mostly agree on.
How to solve it and who it’s a problem for, exactly, is a much more difficult issue, if recent research results from Pew are any indication.
A full 84 percent of people said they were at least somewhat confident they could spot fake news, with 39 percent of those feeling “very confident.” Meanwhile, 64 percent of the 1,002 adult surveyed also said fake news has caused a “great deal of confusion” about current events, with an additional 24 percent saying they believe it caused “some confusion.”
However, a study by Ipsos Public Affairs for BuzzFeed News said fake news headlines fool American adults about 75 percent of the time. Fake news headlines in that study included one saying the Pope endorsed Donald Trump for president, another saying FBI Director James Comey put a Trump sign on his lawn.
There’s no significant difference in concern over fake news based on political ideology, according to the Pew study, which used the term “fake news” interchangeably with “made up news” in survey questions. Roughly equal majorities of both Republicans and Democrats believe fake news is causing confusion, with Democrats only slightly more likely to say so.
In a similar vein, in a study by Pew published Dec. 7, 81 percent of people said the statement, “I feel confident in my ability to use the internet and other communications devices to keep up with information demands in my life,” described them “very well” or “somewhat well.”
More than two-thirds of Americans say they have seen fake political news stories “often” or “sometimes.”
“In a rare instance of demographic differences, whites are more likely than blacks and Hispanics to say they often see fake news, and those with annual incomes of at least $75,000 are more likely than those who make less than $75,000 to say so,” the study states.
And not all fake news sharing is inadvertent. About 23 percent of people said they have shared fake news before, with 14 percent of those saying they have shared a story they knew was fake at the time either to deliberately spread false information, point out the article was false or for “amusement value.”
About 16 percent of those who had shared fake news said they thought the article was real at the time but later found out it was false.
“While it is difficult to measure the precise extent to which people actually see news that has been completely fabricated – given that news consumers could see but not recognize made-up news stories as well as mistake factual stories for false ones — these figures provide a high-level sense of the public’s perception of this kind of content,” the study states.
So whose responsibility is it to cut down on fake news? People assign responsibility to three groups roughly equally: members of the public; the government, politicians and elected officials; and social networking sites and search engines.
“Age is the only area where clear demographic differences emerge. Americans ages 50 and older are more likely to place a great deal of responsibility on the government (53 percent) than those ages 18 to 49 (38 percent),” the study says. “There are no demographic differences for how much responsibility the public or social networking sites and search engines owe.”