Approximately two in three Americans believe that fabricated news stories cause “a great deal of confusion” about the basic facts of current events, according to a survey of 1,002 U.S. adults conducted by the Pew Research Center in December.
Makayla Kilmer, freshman family and human services major, said she once saw a made-up news story on Facebook and believed it.
After she realized it was false, she decided to only get news from her New York Times mobile app.
“I’m like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to read you. I don’t want to read you. Oh! Cute puppies,’” Kilmer said about news articles on Facebook.
Besides creating more skeptical or disillusioned media consumers, fake news has had other real-life consequences. One man entered a pizza restaurant in Washington D.C. in December and fired an assault rifle.
He was there to “self-investigate” an internet conspiracy theory that said the pizza joint was a front for a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager.
The D.C. Police Department arrested the man and said the incident was the result of a “fictitious conspiracy theory.”
“It causes people to focus on things that aren’t even happening as opposed to the actual issues,” Kilmer said.
Randy Hollingsworth, professor of communication at John Brown University, said the November election has caused him to have less confidence in his ability to identify fake news.
He said that Trump has highlighted the problem of fake news by accusing journalists of political bias and reporting misinformation.
Hollingsworth also said that since the election, he is less confident that the news stories he hears are accurate and unbiased.
Several students at John Brown University also expressed that the election has caused them to be less trusting of news stories.
“Especially when you hear these rumors about Trump and Hillary, you just never know if they are true or not,” Hannah Frasier, freshman intercultural and photography major, said.
“Kind of makes me start doubting news in general,” Jaydee Edwards, freshman chemistry and photography major, concurred.
Leyder Morales, a freshman communication major, said he is an avid news reader and comes across fake news articles on Facebook that sometimes confuse his friends.
He once saw one that said former President Barack Obama was dead. Morales didn’t believe it because no major news sources were writing about it.
“Facebook is not the best source,” Morales said. “But that’s what most people use to read things.”
Facebook leads social media platforms as a news source: 44 percent of U.S. adults get news on the site, according to another study by Pew. Next is YouTube, which is a news source for 10 percent of U.S. adults, and Twitter, for nine percent.
A majority of the 11 students who were interviewed for this article said news agencies and the general public have the responsibility of keeping fake news from gaining attention. A few also mentioned that Facebook and social media sites should take responsibility for helping to decrease the circulation of made-up stories.
In the Pew study, 43 percent of respondents said members of the public have a great deal of responsibility in preventing completely made up news from gaining attention, and 42 percent of respondents said the same thing for social networking sites and search engines.
Facebook announced in December that it is creating a plan to combat fake news. Facebook is working with third-party fact-checking groups to identify fake news and warn users if a story they are about to share is false. It also has plans to install a feature that allows users to report a post as fake news.