The surprising way fake news gains credibility
March 21, 2017
Why do so many people continue to share fake news stories?
Turns out, their friends may be more to blame than the stories themselves.
A new study from the Media Insight Project, a joint effort by the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, finds that people tend to believe stories based on who shares them rather than who published them or whether or not they’re actually fake news.
That contradicts earlier research that suggested people gave substantial weight to where a story was published in evaluating its veracity.
The study found that people are more likely to pass along articles on their newsfeeds when they’ve been shared by a source they trust, such as a friend or even a celebrity they like.
Where the story was first published seemed not to matter one way or the other.
The MIP showed the same story to two sets of readers. One version was identified as an Associated Press story, the other as from DailyNewsReview.com, a made-up site.
Fifty-two percent of respondents said they believed in the facts of the AP article when it had been shared by a trusted friend or a celebrity they respected. That figure dropped to 32 percent when the story was shared by someone they thought of as less-trustworthy.
Startlingly, when a trusted celeb shared the story from the fake site, 49 percent found it trustworthy–nearly as many as the AP story. The trustworthiness fell to 37 percent when someone less-trustworthy shared the article.
The study also found that only about 20 percent of respondents remembered the original source of the story while half remembered who shared it on social media.
None of this can come as welcome news for the established media brands in America, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, which are banking so much of their futures on the quality of their reporting and the belief that the public will know the difference.
It has to come as welcome news for celebrities and other public figures, such as President Trump, knowing that anything they send out will be taken as true on the face of it, no matter how nonsensical.
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