Personally, I am not a person who is interested in the news. I don’t watch the news, nor do I check news websites regularly. But I do check social media websites often, and I happen to come across news articles every time. I only look at news articles that I would be interested in, ignoring the ones that seem uninteresting, or irrelevant to me. And when the news story is about politics or incidents, I have never stopped to think, “is this news real?”.
It just so happens that fake news is a trend on the internet. According to the journal article following the 2016 election, Social Media and Fake News in 2016, written by Hunt Allcott and Matthew Genzkow, popular fake news stories are shared more than popular mainstream news stories. In 2016, there were 38 million share of fake news articles, and many believed in those news stories (Allcott & Gemzkow, 2017, p. 212). An example of this would be of a fake news article that was shared more than one million times on Facebook (Allcott & Gemzkow, 2017, p. 214). A fantasy news website, “wtoe5news.com” wrote a fake news article regarding the Pope endorsing Donald Trump (Allcott & Gemzkow, 2017, p. 213). Even though the article did not disclose that this website was a fantasy/satirical news website, the about page does (Allcott & Gemzkow, 2017, p. 214). But despite the disclaimer, people shared without checking whether the story was true or false. In fact, the BuzzFeed article by Craig Silverman and Jeremy Singer-Vine, Most Americans Who See Fake News Believe It, New Survey Says, claims that adults believe fake news articles 75% of the time according to a survey done on more than 3,000 American adults.
So why do fake news articles exist? One of the reasons for fake news websites are for money (Allcott & Gemzkow, 2017, p. 217). Because of ad revenue, the more visits to a page, the more money the creators of the website earn. Thus, the more an article is shared and clicked on, the more revenue fake news websites receive. In addition, more interesting and attractive a news article seems, increases the likeliness that people will read it. The other reason, is to gain support for an ideology, or more specifically support a candidate in the election in this case money (Allcott & Gemzkow, 2017, p. 217). The article shows that fake news stories favored Trump over Clinton; 115 fake stories about Trump compared to 41 about Clinton money (Allcott & Gemzkow, 2017, p. 212). Because of this advantage, “fake news might have been pivotal in the election of President Trump” (Allcott & Gemzkow, 2017, p. 232).
However, if it weren’t for social media, fake news would not be as prominent. According to the journal article, fake news articles get most of its visits from social media shares than from direct browsing, while it is the opposite when looking at top news sites. As a matter of fact, “62 percent of US adults get news on social media” (Allcott & Gemzkow, 2017, p. 212).
Although, other sources have a more detailed percentage on American adults who get news on social media. An article on the Pew Research Center website, Publics Globally Want Unbiased News Coverage, but Are Divided on Whether Their News Media Deliver, found that 39% of Americans use social media for news, daily. More specifically, 54% of Americans from age 18-29, 54% from age 30-49 and 25% from ages over 50. In this article, 38 different countries are surveyed. Canadians are at an even higher percentage at 42%. The largest amount of people using social media for news would be in South Korea, at 57%. Unsurprisingly, younger people tend to use social media for news than older people (Mitchell et al., 2018).
In another Pew Research Center article, 8 Takeaways about Social Media and News, the most used social media site for news is Facebook, followed by Youtube and then Twitter in the US. 22% of people think that Facebook is a useful way to find news while the other 78% discover news just from looking through Facebook for other reasons (Matsa & Mitchell, 2014). Another interesting finding is that people who go directly to news websites rather than through social media are interested and engaged(Matsa & Mitchell, 2014). The minutes per visit, pages per visitor, and visits per visitor are significantly more in those going directly to news websites (Matsa & Mitchell, 2014).
These statistics might explain why fake news is shared so often. Since people are less engaged in news when they find it through social media, they spend less time looking at the article, and subsequently they don’t consider the authenticity. It also pertains to myself, since I am of the younger population, I incidentally find news through Facebook everyday, and I also don’t care enough to check whether the news I read is true or not. In conclusion, after conducting all this research on social media and fake news, you should always check news sources, especially before sharing to other people, when you’re a part of the younger generation, and especially when the news from a social media site.
Allcott, H, & Gentzkow, M. (2017). “Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31(2): 211-36. DOI: 10.1257.
Matsa, K. E., & Mitchell, A. (2014, March 25). 8 Key Takeaways about Social Media and News. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from http://www.journalism.org/2014/03/26/8-key-takeaways-about-social-media-and-news/
Mitchell, A., Simmons, K., Matsa, K. E., & Silver, L. (2018, January 11). Publics Globally Want Unbiased News Coverage, but Are Divided on Whether Their News Media Deliver. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from http://www.pewglobal.org/2018/01/11/publics-globally-want-unbiased-news-coverage-but-are-divided-on-whether-their-news-media-deliver/
Singer-Vine, C. S. (2016, December 6). Most Americans Who See Fake News Believe It, New Survey Says. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/fake-news-survey?utm_term=.nbV5nv4RgW#.tbpJonlBPV