Telling Fake News from Real news, Who can tell?
by AmandaMcc on February 3, 2017 - 6:04pm
The article “Researchers Created Fake News. Here’s What They Found” written by Neil Irwin from the New York Times on January 18 2017 talks about the fake news that has become more widespread over the years. He starts off by talking about the elections and the speculation that the fictitious claims surrounding the election could actually sway the result toward Donald Trump. Two researches, Hunt Allcott of New York University and Matthew Gentzkow of Stanford, threw some “cold water” on the theory that fake news was a big influence on the election result. Allcot and Gentzkow offered some concrete evidence on just how prevalent voters’ intake of false news really was during the 2016 election. Their research also exposes some troubling truths about the modern media environment and how people make sense of the incoming flow of news. They conducted a survey in order to figure out just how deeply fake news is rooted in American voters. Both researchers went around asking people whether they had heard numerous pieces of news that reflected either positively or negatively on one of the candidates — of three varieties. Allcot and Gentzkow also decided to create “fake news”. Which just means that they created some headlines that were the type of thing fake sites created, but had never been published during the campaign. One of the “placebo” headlines was that “[disclosed] documents reveal that the Clinton campaign planned a scheme to offer to drive Republican voters to the polls but [bring] them [somewhere else],” and its opposite in which it was the Trump campaign planning to take Democrats to the wrong polling place. The researchers discovered that most people believed the real news and not the fake news. Merely 15.3 % of the population remembered seeing the fake news stories, and 7.9 % remembered seeing them and believing them. Even more interestingly, the statistics are almost identical to the amount who reported seeing (14.1%) and believing (8.3 %) the “fake” news stories. This basically means that as many people remembered believing the false news that was published on social media as just as many remembered seeing the false news and knowing that it was fake. Allcot and Gentzkow calculated how significant each false story would have to be for it to affect the election results. The researchers concluded that a single news article would have to have been as convincing as multiple T.V campaign ads to have made the difference between a Trump victory or loss. This article suggests that the most dishonest forms of fake news plays a minor role of what is shaping how people understanding of the world.