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Social media users struggle to differentiate between real and fake news


Columbus, Ohio – Social media is a unique environment to say the least. Since sarcasm and serious business happen at the same time on social media platforms, it can be difficult to determine what is real and what is fake. Political news popping up in the same room as a funny meme isn’t always a smooth transition. Ohio State University researchers say that people who watch a mix of entertainment and news on social media often ignore the source.

Their study says the mistake of mistaking sarcastic content for real content can happen very easily. Those who clearly separate entertainment and news feeds have fewer problems; take the time to evaluate the source of their content.

Websites like Facebook and Twitter host a lot of information in one place. While it is very convenient, it can be detrimental to obtaining real information.

“We are drawn to these social media sites because they are one-stop shops for media content, updates from friends and family, and memes or cat pictures,” said researcher George Pearson in the university’s press release. “But this mess of content makes everything seem the same to us. That makes it more difficult for us to distinguish what we have to take seriously from what is just entertainment. “

Search the clutter of social media

Pearson used 370 participants and created a simulated social media site called “Link Me”. Four web pages were created, each with two or four pages of posts for attendees to see. All four pages have a heading and a short paragraph that summarizes the stories. Information on the source of the contribution was also given. Sources were described by their names and descriptions with high or low credibility. All contributions come from actual contributions from platforms such as Reddit or Tumblr.

After visiting the website, participants then took a survey to find out what caught their attention the most. Was it world events or news?

The results show that participants did not pay much attention to the source of the content. When news and entertainment share on the same page, source and credibility remain as rather irrelevant details to the reader. The differences between the sources did not usually vary, which made it difficult to see what is believable.

“On Facebook, there is no visual difference between something from the New York Times and something from a random blog. They all have the same color scheme, the same font, ”explains Pearson.

The OSU researcher suggests that social media sites take tactical measures to separate certain content. Until such a solution is found, it is up to the user to provide their own filters for the recorded content.


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