In this case, the fake news is called “sponsored content,” corporate propaganda appearing on news and social media websites and written or produced to mimic the forms used by real journalism.
Students have trouble telling the difference between news stories and native ads (aka sponsored content), for example, and figuring out where the information came from in the first place, researchers found. More than 80 percent of students thought an ad labeled “sponsored content” was a news story.
“Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak,” researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Education wrote.
The study tested “civic online reasoning” to see how students evaluate information on the internet. Researchers also wanted to determine how to teach them to separate credible sources from those that shouldn’t be trusted. They tested students — from middle school, high school and college in 12 US states, gathering 7,804 responses between January 2015 and June 2016.
“Many people assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally perceptive about what they find there,” said Sam Wineburg, the report’s lead author. “Our work shows the opposite to be true.” Wineburg is a professor and a founder of the Stanford History Education Group, which has put together curriculum for social studies classes to help students learn to evaluate primary sources.
The study tackled news literacy and examined students’ ability to evaluate Facebook and Twitter feeds, photographs, reader comments on news sites and blog posts.