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Study shows 80% of students can't tell the difference between real and fake news

Alternative World News NetworkDec 9, 2016, 11:24:20 PM

By now, you have probably heard about the epidemic of "fake news" that has permeated social media.  Sites like The Onion have been doing this for over a decade and, maybe because most people know The Onion by name, they haven't been tricked by their sly (and often incredibly weird) titles.

At some point, the concept proliferated and sites like The New Yorker and Clickhole emerged to join the ranks of fakeness.  Sure, articles with titles like Lucky To Be Alive: Harrison Ford Is Recovering After A Giant Pencil Erased His Face are most obvioulsy fake.  The joke can be rolled with.  But when sites join in "the fun" and begin printing articles with blatant likes (like spreading news of a celebrity's death or a congressional bill being passed), things get complicated.

If you read news about your own death and saw that 30 million people had shared it, you may also be disturbed.  If you saw an article saying that your vote doesn't count, you might be more likely not to vote.

The media plays an incredibly important roll in shaping the mind of those that experience it.  On top of that, the definition of media has evolved so sharply that even a post you make on social media becomes it.  In that, you ARE the media.  Your internet content is shaping the minds around you.

At Minds, for instance, we have toyed with the idea of making fake news articles.  It's fun and a fresh change from reporting what's really going on.  Doing this, however, makes things change forever.

If you see a fake article (one of ours being Native American Council offers amnesty to 220 million undocumented whites) you may begin to suspect all articles from that site are fake.  This is a problem.  Where is the line drawn between truth and fiction.

AND, on top of that, a poorly investigated story can just seem fake.  Missing, or inaccurate facts can ruin a story and spread lies.  It has been, and should probably continue to be, the journalist's primary motive to reveal the truth.  Tempting as it is to go for the emotions, it is safer and likely better for the reader to present truth, as objectively as possible.

But, with ad revenue being generated by clicks and little to no law in place about what you can and can't lie about in print, people have gone off the deep end.  Not everyone, but enough to make it a global issue.

At Stanford, researcher Sam Wineburg experienced some shocking results when polling 7,804 students, ranging in age from middle school to college level, across 12 US states.   "Many people assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally perceptive about what they find there," said lead  from Stanford University. "Our work shows the opposite to be true."

Most (roughly 80%) of the high school students polled had no problem taking information from an anonymous imgur post.  Similarly, 80% of the middle school students couldn't tell the difference between sponsored content and a real news story.

"In every case and at every level, we were taken aback by students' lack of preparation," they write in their report.

So how do you combat fake news?  Stay vigilant, skeptical and willing to look for external sources.  Believe nothing at face value.  It may be a little annoying, but you're less likely to get tricked.