Nine-out-of-10 American adults fact-check their news. This is among several news findings from an annual study of over 1,000 people on misinformation. The inaugural study can be found here. Conducted to Security.org, not only are Americans fact-checking, 96 percent want to limit the spread of false information.
Trust in Social and News Media Had Declined in the Past Year
Over the past few decades, the explosion of digital platforms has dramatically reshaped the informational environment. Where mass media operations once vetted and monopolized news coverage, anyone can instantly publish news today, as long as they have an internet connection.
Though many people rely on social and news media to get information, public opinion of both sources is dropping. One-half of Americans hold the media in lower regard than they did just 12 months ago, and one-quarter say their trust has grown “much worse” over that time. Only two percent of adults said their trust improved.
These sentiments were consistent across age groups and genders but differed widely by political affiliation. Following assaults on the mainstream media by GOP leaders, many Republicans have little confidence in mainstream and government information sources. According to our research, 53 percent of Republicans found mainstream news not at all trustworthy, compared to just seven percent of Democrats and 35 percent of independents.
Despite Social Media’s Popularity, Few Trust Information
Nearly 200 million Americans interact with social media at least once daily, yet a third of them “never” or “rarely” believe what they find.
Among the many platforms available today, Facebook is the social media site consumers trust least. Despite the company’s widely-publicized efforts to eradicate misinformation, 42 percent of Facebook users said they frequently find questionable posts on the platform. Only 10 percent regularly trust content they see on Facebook.
Americans are Verifying Information
Though Americans are confident in their ability to recognize fake news, current mistrust drives most to verify the information they see both in traditional and social media. Nine of 10 consumers use at least one method to check that the information they consume is accurate.
Doing a web search was the most popular way people sought further information about a news event. Reading multiple articles on the same topic was also a common verification practice.
While Americans Verify, Not Everyone Does Before Sharing
Americans agree that misinformation is a problem: 96 percent want false facts contained. Unfortunately, many of these people also share unverified posts with their own social networks.
Overall, 56 percent of Americans publicly share political or news posts on social media, with younger generations the most likely to repost stories online. Less than half of adults who share political or news posts on social media make sure to check facts before reposting, and about one out of six “rarely” or “never” verify the information before sharing it.
How do you protect against misinformation? An informative guide, which you can read here, advocates for using your head and available information while being a responsive cyber-citizen.
Americans treasure speech and press freedoms but resent the spread of misinformation they allow. While the study shows an increasing distrust of media sources, we are willing to expend great effort to verify facts.