We conducted a study asking 1,500 US respondents who they blamed the most for the proliferation of fake news. We used Google Surveys and targeted males and females between the ages of 18 to 65+ from coast to coast. We asked the following question with several possible responses:
When asked whom they blamed for the proliferation of fake news stories in the US, 34.1% of respondents indicated “newspapers and magazines who created them”. With a readily available and accessible platform of newspapers and magazines willing to distribute fake news and misinformation, it is unsurprising that there has been an exponential increase in its proliferation. Over a third of Americans surveyed believe, and rightly so, that the onus is placed squarely upon the shoulders of publications to embrace journalistic standards and ethics, and thus, report on and publish legitimate news stories. If those newspapers and magazines guilty of publishing fake news did not exist, the shocking increase of misinformation would, in essence, be nipped in the bud.
Compelling additional insight is provided when demographic filters are applied for males and females between the ages of 25 to 34, revealing an increase to 37.6%. When focuses specifically on males within the 25-34 demographic, that percentage increased to 38.2% of respondents.
Looking at the second largest response, those who share fake news stories are to blame for the problem.
The second largest group of respondents at 26.8%, stated that those who shared fake news were responsible for its proliferation. In this our digital age, on a daily basis, we share a nearly incalculable amount of information. Those who choose to share misinformation or fabricated news stories are adding gasoline to an inferno.
Curiously, this percentage increases even further when demographic filters are applied for individuals between 18 and 24, to 30.3%. When females specifically are factored between 18-24, 31.4% of respondents indicated that they blamed individuals who shared fake news as the root cause of the issue.
This is unsurprising, really. Young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are the first generation in history to have grown up and come of age with the entrenched social norm of “sharing” on the digital landscape, and the idea of social media.
Social Media has become an integral component of our daily lives. It has become so entwined within society, that many Americans now turn to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter as the preferred method of consuming news. That said, it comes as little surprise that 23.9% of respondents blamed social networks for the proliferation of fake news stories.
Interestingly, 65+- year-olds seem to place the blame on social networks even more so than the rest of the population, as 27.8% of them selected the response. Given the percentage increase, that makes the social network component the second largest response for the spread of fake news, for people 65+.
A striking component to the Digital Age is the monetization of things on the internet. At any given moment while online, web users are being sold something, whether they are aware of that fact or not. The smallest, albeit still important group, 15.2%, indicated that marketing agencies who monetized fake news stories were to blame for the proliferation of misinformation.
The monetization of fake news by marketing agencies seems to matter even more among the 18 to 24 demographic, as 19.9% chose this answer, making it the third largest response by this age group. Astonishingly, the percentage increases even more, to 23% among males between 18 and 24-years-old.
As a generalization, 18 to 24-year-olds are the most web-savvy of all the demographics. Therefore, it is unsurprising that this age group is more likely to be aware of when something is being marketed to them.
A fundamental tenet to a healthy democracy, is freedom of the press. At this moment of our collective history, we are witnessing a polarization within society that is often fueled by the proliferation of fake news. Moreover, deeming legitimate reporting by credible news agencies as “fake news” has become an increasingly employed tactic by the likes of Donald Trump.
Therefore, it is imperative for our democracy, to possess the ability to differentiate between what are legitimate news stories and what is fake news. Newspapers, magazines, and blogs must be held accountable for the content that they publish. The only solution to quell the proliferation of misinformation and fake news is a concerted effort by all web-users. These fabricated news stories must be identified and reported, and most importantly, flagged as fake news.
The First Amendment of the US Constitution protects the freedom of the press. It is essential for a well-functioning democracy, that the news media has both the ability and freedom to hold governing bodies accountable to the people who elected them in the first place. The press serves as a watchdog, documenting any misconduct, or unethical behavior by governing officials. The proliferation of fake news is both nefarious and infringes on the rights of free people in a democratic society. We are in the midst of a battle for one of the founding principles of democracy itself.
Root mean square error (RMSE) is a weighted average of the difference between the predicted population sample (CPS) and the actual sample (Google). The lower the number, the smaller the overall sample bias.