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Study: Most Students Can't Spot Fake News (engadget.com) 403

Even those who think that the U.S. Presidential election wasn't affected by the swath of fake news articles swirling on Facebook and other social media networks, they tend to agree that there is a lot of misinformation on the web. At Slashdot, it's hard to say that anyone here will not be able to tell fake news from a real one. But what about kids? How is our future generation doing? Not so well, apparently. An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report:A Stanford study of 7,804 middle school, high school and college students has found that most of them couldn't identify fake news on their own. Their susceptibility varied with age, but even a large number of the older students fell prey to bogus reports. Over two-thirds of middle school kids didn't see why they shouldn't trust a bank executive's post claiming that young adults need financial help, while nearly 40 percent of high schoolers didn't question the link between an unsourced photo and the claims attached to it. Why did many of the students misjudge the authenticity of a story? They were fixated on the appearance of legitimacy, rather than the quality of information. A large photo or a lot of detail was enough to make a Twitter post seem credible, even if the actual content was incomplete or wrong. There are plenty of adults who respond this way, we'd add, but students are more vulnerable than most.
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Study: Most Students Can't Spot Fake News

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  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @02:04PM (#53340239)

    Now I understand why Facebook uses an algorithm to decide what's real news or not

    The algorithm is very bad at it, but this tells us the youngsters who did this before, were even worse.

  • Lemmings. I, by default, trust nothing. Not a way to live really but is imposed on us. So sad...
    • Fascinating to watch (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @02:46PM (#53340651) Homepage Journal

      Lemmings. I, by default, trust nothing. Not a way to live really but is imposed on us. So sad...

      This election is the first time in my life I've taken the trouble to dig down past the news reporting into the facts that were reported.

      ...and it's fascinating. From a psychology point of view, if you can figure out the forces and rationalizations involved it's an interesting exercise in crowd manipulation and competition for readership.

      This almost looks orchestrated.

      Right now we're seeing the first rumblings of a landslide change in the way news is reported. We're starting by building up a problem in the minds of the readership, being "fake news sites". (Note that it's fake *sites*, not fake *stories*.)

      This will go on for awhile until most of the readership simply accepts that "fake news sites" is a real problem that needs to be addressed. Then we'll see sites rolling out their "fixes" to the problems.

      Google is pulling ad revenue [mediaite.com] from sites deemed to be "fake news", under the rule that they are not "advertiser friendly". Expect many ambiguous rules and discretionary enforcement to be implemented. For example, Scott Adams being shadow banned [dilbert.com] from twitter for having insightful views on the election.

      I never knew about Breitbart news [breitbart.com] until this election, and after following them for the last 3 months I think they're probably the best example of actual news reporting on the net. The site is right-wing slanted, but the actual reporting appears to be high quality and accurate.

      Compare with, for example, Huffington Post which had at the bottom of each article about Trump, the statement: "Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims—1.6 billion members of an entire religion—from entering the U.S." A direct quote, and I personally saw this at the bottom of several HuffPo articles.

      The difference is between *what* gets reported, versus the *style* of reporting. Sites can be left-leaning or right-leaning, but the text shouldn't be obviously dismissive, judgemental, opinionated drivel. Readers shouldn't be told what to think - they should make up their own minds.

      So look to the future, where *sites* (not articles) can't be found in search engines, can't get ad revenue, and have to live in the shadows,

      Oh, and here's a list of famous fake news articles [breitbart.com] published by the MSM in recent years.

      Also note that the "fake news" scare originally started from a professor creating a list of "fake news" websites was itself fake!. The list has since been taken down, but the term "fake news site" that it coined will be with us for awhile.

      The “fake news” freakout: The story about a professor creating an authoritative list of “fake news” websites, as widely reported across the mainstream media, was itself a fake news story. The creator of the list was a madcap left-wing activist who compiled it on a whim, not through any sort of rigorously-vetted academic process. When the list of fake news sites came under sustained criticism, it was removed from the Internet, long after generating a raft of stories on top news websites and TV shows.

      As with many of the other stories above, the fake-news-site list received huge MSM coverage because it dovetailed with a Democrat political initiative – President Obama is personally involved – and it flattered both the ideological preferences and business interests of Big Media.

  • by deadwill69 ( 1683700 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @02:08PM (#53340267)

    "At Slashdot, it's hard to say that anyone here will not be able to tell fake news from a real one."

    Judging by some of the discussions over the last few days on similar articles I doubt this.

    • "At Slashdot, it's hard to say that anyone here will not be able to tell fake news from a real one."

      This is blatantly untrue. If you're sure you can spot fake news, odds are you can't. (Or at least, that you can only spot some of it.)

    • Indeed. It's not that easy to spot fakes - especially the well done ones that rely on exaggeration and other half-truths.

      Unsourced photos? Well, they can just make up a source. How can we easily see it's true or not? Same for all details given in a story.

      Not everyone can spend an hour looking up details on every story they read. Usually we just have to put faith in the news outlet, faith in the reporters that write the story, and trust them that it is true and correct.

  • It's so hard to tell...

    • It's so hard to tell...

      Read the article. Follow the sources. More effort than most readers here will bother with.

      In this case, it goes to Engadget which links to an article on the Wall Street Journal commenting on an unreleased Stanford study (apparently set for release today or next Tuesday). You could try and find the article, but in this case, the WSJ is about the most reliable source of news. People pay to read the WSJ because they expect correct news in order to base their attempts to make money. If the WSJ misportrays somet

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hillary lost to a despicable loud-mouthed clown because the electorate looked at her and found a lying, unscrupulous, corrupt, unlikable, arrogant harpy whose only accomplishment is marrying Bill Clinton.

    Quit trying to excuse Hillary's loss. It's all on the Democrats who selected her to run for President.

  • Sarcasm (Score:4, Funny)

    by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @02:14PM (#53340321)

    No surprise here. Kids can't get sarcasm either.

    • No surprise here. Kids can't get sarcasm either.

      So true, but then again, sarcasm is a Gen X thing.
      Once were gone everything will be literal, figuratively.

      • No, every time a new generation discovers sarcasm they treat it like it is the greatest invention of all time.

  • Who is surprised? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What do you expect when you do not emphasize critical thinking and analysis? The American school system has never been about teaching kids how to think, just what to think, to accept the corporate American mindset. This makes for the best workers who will do their jobs but never question the overall system.

  • Unsurprised (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jxander ( 2605655 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @02:20PM (#53340375)

    This clearly illustrates the one area where schools lack: critical thinking

    Our school system is really only designed to enable rote memorization:
    Memorize your multiplication tables.
    Memorize the dates of the Egyptian empire
    Memorize the themes in To Kill a Mockingbird
    Memorize that mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell

    They are given a book, told "this book is truth, memorize this book," and so yeah, seeing an article with ulterior motives would throw them for a loop.

    If you want better politicians, you need a better populace. If you want a better populace, you're going to need a better public school system that teaches students more than just numbers and facts. We need to teach them how to think critically, how to examine the world around them, and how to leverage the internet as a nearly unlimited resource, while being wary of the ability for any random jack-hole to post some spurious shit on their blog.

    • Education.

      Hell, even my generation lacked in critical thought training. I think like most public schools we covered some basic logic at one point, circular logic and simple stuff. Those things take continual training and updates. It's easier not to think about an appeal to emotion that it is to question it, especially if it fits your particular bias.

      Socrates stated in the Republic that it was necessary for the public to ensure all citizens were trained in rhetoric. Up until the US move to Prussian educa

    • Our School system isn't designed to memorize rote. It is designed to produce Factory Workers, from a style that is 120 years old. Instead of highly customized and accelerated learning for those that want education, we end up with "lowest common denominator" drag to the bottom.

      What we don't do any more is require Mastery or even Competency in subjects. Everyone is given participation grades and then we wonder why our kids can't do basic math. We throw good money after bad money trying to solve problems that

    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

      Our school system is really only designed to enable rote memorization: ... Memorize your multiplication tables.

      I don't think that's true. Twenty years ago kids were taught to do long multiplication, long division etc. as a straightforward set of rote instructions that they had to memorize and apply blindly.

      More recently as part of "new maths" they're told to solve these problems differently -- with techniques that are no longer the rote application of instructions, but instead require creativity and understanding of what the numbers represent. http://www.nbcwashington.com/n... [nbcwashington.com]

      I'm in two minds about this. As a comput

    • If you want a better populace, you're going to need a better public school system that teaches students more than just numbers and facts. We need to teach them how to think critically, how to examine the world around them, and how to leverage the internet as a nearly unlimited resource, while being wary of the ability for any random jack-hole to post some spurious shit on their blog.

      Our public school system was NEVER designed to do such things. As someone who has actually taught within it, I know the history. It was designed to train obedient factory workers -- seriously, timed classes with students responding to bells? Look back at some sources from the early 1900s, and you'll see people explicitly talking about how the system was designed to imitate factories. Real in-depth learning doesn't take place in neatly managed 45-minute blocks, sounded to an end by a buzzer.

      At first, t

  • by Sir_Eptishous ( 873977 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @02:27PM (#53340467) Homepage

    Why did many of the students misjudge the authenticity of a story? They were fixated on the appearance of legitimacy, rather than the quality of information.

    This is the same reason people get nailed by spear phishing.

    • by sinij ( 911942 )
      Pedantic correction: You get speared by spear phishing. You probably were thinking about Jesus, he got nailed.
  • This study is completely fake and the numbers are just a complete fabrication. (OK, really, did you verify it before posting that this is this NOT fake news because it's on ./??)
  • The real problem is that many people simply have no inbuilt way to evaluate the truthiness of an article. They do not even know where to start. And so label anything they disagree with as fake, and everything they agree with as truth. Their is as much, if not more, of a problem with real legit news being considered fake as their is fake storied being believed.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      And that is exactly the problem: People that do not know their limits. "Incompetent and unaware of it" captures this extremely well.

  • by whodunit ( 2851793 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @02:30PM (#53340497)

    I'm fucking sick of this narrativr being pushed on Slashdot. Your first clue that it's politically motivated should have been President Obama using his presidential podium to bitch about it. Your latest should have been how quickly China latched onto the bandwagon. Those with longer memories might recall that China has enforced internet censorship using this exact rationale before; "anti-social misinformation." But "fake news" is much more succinct - it implies that "real news" can only come from "real news sources." Coincidentally this endless propaganda blitz only started after it was revealed how much election info people got from their friends on Facebook. It's yet another media attempt to solidify - nay reclaim - their oligarchal status as outlets that people trusted implicitly. One need look no further than their current behavior - where they are issuing hysterical semons about Trump being "the least transparent President in history" because he didn't inform the media before stepping out for a fucking steak dinner - to see the depths of their panic. After a campaign season where they dropped the last pretenses of objectivity and did their level best to destroy Trump - only to see him win the Presidency - they know their former sainted and respected status as Messengers From Olympus is no more. They can shriek and rage and stomp their feet all they want but nothing will change this. Trump uses Twitter to speak to the masses directly, which underscores the point: they are not just no longer trusted, but no longer needed.

    No number of propaganda articles will change that.

    • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @02:47PM (#53340661)
      All the major new outlets are guilty of publishing opinion pieces as if they're real news. Maybe not totally made-up fake, but just as bad.
    • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @03:00PM (#53340773)
      You are confusing propaganda with news. Trump saying something on twitter isn't news. Somebody posting an article on facebook isn't news. You have to have a vetting process, and a check/verification process, be it at the editor, but more rpeferably at the reading end too. And no matter what side of the political process you, both Democrate and republican are faulty of using hoax stories, let us call them by what they really are. You take trump as example, but even he fell down the trap with that so called "jihadist" video which was an hoax.

      During the hayday of journalism , say 1940 to 1970-80ish , this vetting and verification process was understood, and serious journalism rose above the yellow press. But starting 1980ies and strongly 1990ies, it declined because people are pretty damn cheap. So vetting and serious investigation dropped, dropped and dropped until the cost are so much cut that every damn idiot copy/paste one source be it a AFP , Reuter or a 3rd party rag, check it, they even don't bother changing the wording. Heck now people are considering the shit out of facebook news. It isn't. They are just stories, as likelies to be hoax, taken out of context, or even news, without vetting or fact checking you can't tell. Since there is no vetting process on either side (writing/reading), no double check , those hoax get spread. heck scam too. Steorn. Rossi eCat. And so forth. How often I tried to get people to spot the warning sign ? And get ignored because I am a "liberal" or a "rightwingnut" (depending on the slant of the story I try to point out has problem) or even a "close minded scientist" ?

      And frankly, I have been saying for years it is a problem, albeit in skeptical forums, not here. The problem is that critical thinking is a skill one need to learn because it is pretty damn easy to fall into one's bias as long as they go the way one politically think. Nobody Is teaching critical thinking. So for years we have been seeing hoaxes rise as stories and being handled seriously. Heck among skeptic group, what do you think we try to fight for ? Critical thinking is THE skill everybody should be getting. And yet again I predict that this will fall by the byside , being seen as propaganda from butthurt people.

      The only point where you are right, is that a lot of media are butthurt now and see that as a problem. But that does not mean the problem is not real. It is real, and I have seen the rise of hoax and scam being treated very seriously , far more than previously in spite of fact checking being so easy nowadays.
    • You really think news organizations' reputations are baseless and that journalism has been rendered obsolete because the president-to-be lets us know everything we ought to know in his manic bursts of communication through Twitter and YouTube?

      You seem to suffer from a strange combination of cynicism and credulousness.

  • It is ALL fake news (Score:4, Informative)

    by lessthan0 ( 176618 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @02:31PM (#53340511)

    Ron Paul compiled a list of fake news from mainstream/big media based on the Wikileaks emails from John Podesta. There was amazing collaboration between the Clinton campaign and major media outlets, and spin perpetrated on the world. It is shameful.

    http://www.ronpaullibertyreport.com/archives/revealed-the-real-fake-news-list

    Offenders include ABC, Bloomberg, CBS, CNBC, CNN, Daily Beast, Huff Po, MSNBC, NBC, NY Times, Politico, Washington Post and more.

    Polls were rigged by oversampling democrats vs. republicans/independents so many were flat wrong. Aggregate sites like 538 were wrong. "Legitimate" news sites pushed a common agenda and it was fake. Your only hope is to read multiple outlets, traditional and non-traditional news, with very different points of view, focus on facts, know that the EVERY reporter is biased, take that into account, and draw your own conclusions.

    "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past."
    -- George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jergantic ( 148640 )

      This is some random joker with a blog who simply listed all major news organizations as fake because they "told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction". He provides no sources to back up this claim. These news sites did not, in reality, tell us this; they told us that this was claimed by the US government, which was true.

      538 simply performed a statistical analysis of the polls. They gave Trump around a 30% chance of winning and wrote multiple stories emphasizing that it wasn't a done deal. They were n

    • I tried your link but it merely has a screenshot of hyperlinks to sources but doesn't have the actual hyperlinks.

      http://www.ronpaullibertyrepor... [ronpaullibertyreport.com]

      Do you know the source that was screenshotted?

  • No shit sherlock (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @02:32PM (#53340519)

    This is a dunning-kruger problem. The only way you can tell if something is fake or not, is if you already have at least some knowledge about the subject matter. If there's an article from a trusted news source about how Intel put out a 6GHz CPU, the first thing I would do is check if the date is April 1st because I know about the problems involved.

    If an article says someone has discovered a liquid form of a higgs-boson condensate, how would I know different? I mean, it's a condensate , obviously it must condense somehow.

    And to make matters worse, in the US there are truth in advertising laws but there doesn't seem to be an equivalent for news. At least, I assume that must be the case, because I can't fathom how Fox News could be viable otherwise.

    Fake news is nothing new, and certainly not specific to this past election. The only thing different is that people are finally starting to wake up to how serious of a problem it is.

    • If an article says someone has discovered a liquid form of a higgs-boson condensate, how would I know different? I mean, it's a condensate , obviously it must condense somehow.

      You could as well have used Global Warming in your example...

  • Even those who work as editors at Slashdot, they tend not to correct awkward grammar. At Slashdot, it's hard to say that anyone here will not be able to parse needlessly complex sentences.
  • Sage Words (Score:5, Funny)

    by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @02:46PM (#53340647)
    "The problem with quotes on the internet is it is hard to validate their authenticity" - Abraham Lincoln
  • has fake news reporters being used in Channel One commercials.

  • by sgt_doom ( 655561 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @03:00PM (#53340779)
    What is all this sudden bullcrap about "fake news" in a country where it is LEGAL to fictional ALL news (thanks to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation's multiple lawsuits in federal court) and where the Koch brothers are responsible for most of the "content" on NPR, and everything on PBS and Frontline?

    I mean, WTF is all this Prof. Elizabeth Sindars/Merrimack College (WTF that is????) bullcrap about???? This is the Land of Fake News, and has been during my lifetime.

    And now . . . for some Non-Fake News . . . .
  • the link between an unsourced photo and the claims attached to it

    The irony of the Slashdot article next to the ads screaming, "12 celebrities you didn't know were dead", with a photo of a celebrity who is most certainly not dead.

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