Our daily lives are inundated with news stories shared across all communication platforms about politicians, celebrities and more. With such high volumes of information coming out at all hours, the newest research findings indicate one of the biggest challenges is understanding what news is real and what is fake.
According to a 2016 Pew Research study, 62 percent of U.S. adults now get their news from social media, and that number is likely to keep growing. During the 2016 election cycle, numerous accusations of “fake news” being created to influence voters surfaced. Most of these stories were circulated across social media, where the articles’ authenticity was not always questioned. This was most recently highlighted in a Washington Post story focused on alleged Russian involvement in generating fake news stories to influence the outcome of the election.
Additionally, a recent Stanford University study of 7,804 middle school through college-age students, featured in the Wall Street Journal, found very few students could differentiate between real or fake news. According to the article, “some 82 percent of middle schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled ‘sponsored content’ and a real news story on a website.”
While social media companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have announced they will be taking steps to identify and reduce fake news and misinformation, clearly a significant amount of false information still gets through and is easily perpetuated by friends and family sharing stories.
This is an alarming trend that demonstrates how easily influenced people can be by news and stories created solely for the purpose of advancing an agenda. It also means that public relations practitioners across all industries need to be vigilant about tracking and monitoring information about their clients to ensure the content is not being manipulated.
As a news consumer, are you aware of the source of your news and do you confirm the validity of the stories before sharing with others? What do you see as the biggest concerns going forward? Have you lost trust in any specific media platforms?
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