A new survey launched by TruthGuard asked 1,500 Americans between the ages of 18 and 65 who they blame for the proliferation of fake news. The results are quite compelling and show different opinions in certain age groups of the population.
We live in a time of polarization within the United States. Over the past couple years, many have voiced alarm at the evident eroding of a fundamental tenet of democracy – freedom of the press. Increasingly, the distribution of fake news has been used as tactic to spread misinformation, often resulting in confusion and fear. Likewise, legitimate journalism has often provoked the ire of the Trump Administration, being immediately deemed fake news. We have witnessed a marked increase in the proliferation of fake news, which in turn, threatens the First Amendment of the Constitution. Consequently, Americans seem to place the blame of its increase, squarely on the shoulders of publications that create fake news.
The graph below reveals Americans attitudes towards who is responsible for the spread of fake news.
According to the findings of the survey, when asked who they blamed the most for the spread of fake news, 34.1% of respondents said it was the newspapers and magazines that created it in the first place. Over a third of Americans surveyed believe that the publications, which manufacture the fabricated news stories, ought to be held accountable. Among young people between the ages of 18 and 24-years-old, that percentage increases to 37.6%.
Taking into account that this is the most popular response, there must be a concerted effort to identify and report fake news stories. In addition, these newspapers and magazines that are creating misinformation under the guise of legitimate journalism must be held to task.
“These survey results reiterates the fact that we need a rating system for newspapers and magazines. A way for people to differentiate what are credible outlets and what is fake news. We have to hold publications responsible for the sort of content that they are creating and publishing. There’s never been a more important time than now,” stated Amine Rahal, founder of truthguard.org.
Another interesting take-away from the survey results: 26.8% responded that they blamed people who shared fake news for its increase and spread. The percentage increased even further with 18 to 24-year-olds to 30.3%, with females specifically in the demographic increasing it to an astonishing 31.4%. Given that young people are the first generation to have grown up completely in the digital age, this cohort is perhaps more versed than others with the power and implications of “sharing” within the social norm of this digital landscape.
Interestingly, a smaller group, 23.9% responded that they placed the blame on social networks for allowing fake news to circulate. In our digital age social media has become a powerful and integral aspect of daily life. More Americans than ever now turn to social media as the primary source of news. Given that so much of the population uses social media as a means of consuming news, it’s unsurprising nearly a quarter of respondents indicated that social networks were accountable for the proliferation of fake news. Amongst Americans 65+, however, 27.8% stated that the blame fell upon social networks for permitting fake news to circulate on their platforms.
A smallest, albeit important group, stated that they blamed marketing agencies who monetize fake news stories – 15.2% of respondents. Further compelling insight can be found when demographic filters are factored for 18 to 24-year-olds, as 19.9% chose this response. Therefore, the monetization of fake news by marketing agencies is the third most popular answer amongst this demographic.
Suffice it to say, we are living in a time of polarization and uncertainty. The political and social climate in America has changed drastically in the past few years. A disconcerting element of that change is the proliferation of fake news, which in turn, has eroded a fundamental tenant of a healthy democracy. Based upon these survey results, there must be a concerted, collective effort to hold publications and media outlets accountable for the content that they create and distribute.