American students unable to differentiate between fake news and real

❝ Stanford researchers assessed students from middle school to college and found they struggled to distinguish ads from articles, neutral sources from biased ones and fake accounts from real ones.

❝ If the children are the future, the future might be very ill-informed.

That’s one implication of a new study from Stanford researchers that evaluated students’ ability to assess information sources and described the results as “dismaying,” “bleak” and “a threat to democracy.”…

❝ Middle school, high school and college students in 12 states were asked to evaluate the information presented in tweets, comments and articles. More than 7,800 student responses were collected.

In exercise after exercise, the researchers were “shocked” — their word, not ours — by how many students failed to effectively evaluate the credibility of that information.

The students displayed a “stunning and dismaying consistency” in their responses, the researchers wrote, getting duped again and again. They weren’t looking for high-level analysis of data but just a “reasonable bar” of, for instance, telling fake accounts from real ones, activist groups from neutral sources and ads from articles.

More than 80 percent of middle schoolers believed that ‘sponsored content’ was a real news story…

RTFA and spoil your weekend. Or not. Maybe you’re not surprised. The details are kind of overwhelming.

14 thoughts on “American students unable to differentiate between fake news and real

  1. No surprise says:

    Critical analysis and thinking were once regarded and cultivated in our country as an important skill, in part because of it’s role in the democratic process. However it seems that having an ability to make rational decisions has fallen by the wayside, in part perhaps because it’s a major impediment to consumerism, as well as other circumstances in our culture that depend on an ability to emotionally manipulate behavior. See also “Confusion is an authoritarian tool” https://eideard.com/2016/11/21/confusion-is-an-authoritarian-tool/ (thanks Ed)

  2. Test says:

    27. The Trump revolution will be led by television talking heads.
    ☐ True
    ☐ False
    ☐ None of the above

    Answer the questions as rapidly as possible without making mistakes. If you make a mistake that cannot be concealed loudly place the blame for it on someone else.
    [See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2016/11/29/daily-202-trump-leaning-on-tv-analysts-as-he-staffs-the-government/583ca4b4e9b69b7e58e45f21/ for answers]

  3. Lemmings says:

    “N.C. man told police he went to D.C. pizzeria with gun to investigate conspiracy theory” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2016/12/04/d-c-police-respond-to-report-of-a-man-with-a-gun-at-comet-ping-pong-restaurant/?utm_term=.a586c48f8666
    “The restaurant’s owner and employees were threatened on social media in the days before the election after fake news stories circulated claiming that then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief were running a child sex ring from the restaurant’s backrooms. Even Michael Flynn, a retired general whom President-elect Donald Trump has tapped to advise him on national security, shared stories about another anti-Clinton conspiracy theory involving pedophilia. None of them were true. But the fake stories and threats persisted, some even aimed at children of Comet Ping Pong employees and patrons.”
    See also “A harsh truth about fake news: Some people are super gullible” for background https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/22/a-harsh-truth-about-fake-news-some-people-are-super-gullible/?utm_term=.a3438731ccdb

  4. Ignorance is strength says:

    In an interview that aired last night on CBS’ “60 Minutes, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he has no problem with President-elect Donald Trump tweeting lies and conspiracy theories, including dangerous allegations of mass voter fraud in the recent presidential election.
    “The Speaker of the House,” which aired on Dec. 4, 2016. Video and transcript at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-paul-ryan-on-partnership-with-donald-trump/
    The Oxford Dictionary announced a couple weeks ago that “post-truth” is its 2016 word of the year. According to the dictionary’s website, the word is “an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’ “

  5. Prescient says:

    “I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…
    The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance”
    Carl Sagan, “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark” (1995) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Demon-Haunted_World

  6. Just the facts, ma'am says:

    The FBI Is Investigating a journalist because he tweeted a joke about a fake news story to a colleague. Conspiracy theorists seized on the tweet and shared it as fact, which led the investigation “because of what the allegations were.” according to an FBI agent involved in the investigation. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fbi-investigates-journalist-joke-tweet_us_58471b9fe4b0fe5ab6936b54 See also “Don’t ever speak to the FBI without a tape recorder running and a lawyer present” http://boingboing.net/2013/05/07/dont-ever-speak-to-the-fbi-w.html

  7. Ignis Fatuus says:

    Donald Trump supporters are calling for a boycott of the upcoming Star Wars film “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” http://qz.com/859462/donald-trump-supporters-are-urging-others-to-dumpstarwars-ahead-of-the-rogue-one-release/ The film, slated for US release on Dec. 16, has come under fire from Trump supporters, some of whom, it seems, have been suckered in by the unstoppable spread of fake news. Jack Posobiec, of the group Citizens for Trump, who describes himself as a “recovering Star Wars fan,” tweeted yesterday that the movie was reshot to include anti-Trump scenes, setting off a Twitterstorm among critics and fans of the franchise.

  8. Mike says:

    “A website launched on Wednesday seeks to track Russian-supported propaganda and disinformation on Twitter [in near real-time], part of a growing non-governmental effort to diminish Moscow’s ability to meddle in future elections in the United States and Europe.
    The “Hamilton 68” dashboard was built by researchers working with the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan, transatlantic project set up last month to counter Russian disinformation campaigns.
    The website, supported by the German Marshall Fund, displays a “near real-time” analysis of English-language tweets from a pool of 600 Twitter accounts that analysts identified as users that spread Russian propaganda.” https://venturebeat.com/2017/08/03/hamilton-68-website-tracks-russian-backed-propaganda-on-twitter/
    See also http://dashboard.securingdemocracy.org/ note “Content Tweeted by Bots and Trolls
    Activity from 600 monitored Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence operations”

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