Tag Archives: social media

Most young Australians can’t identify fake news online

The Conversation

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Media education opportunities should be more frequently available in schools to ensure young Australians meaningfully engage with news media. Shutterstock

Tanya Notley, Western Sydney University and Michael Dezuanni, Queensland University of Technology

In September 2017, we conducted Australia’s first nationally representative survey focused on young Australians’ news engagement practices.

Our survey of 1,000 young Australians aged eight to 16 indicated that while roughly one third felt they could distinguish fake news from real news, one third felt they could not make this distinction. The other third were uncertain about their ability.

In part, we were motivated by the gravity of recent academic and public claims about the impact of the spread of “fake news” via social media – although we are well aware of arguments about the credibility and accuracy of the term “fake news”. In our study, we classified fake news as news that is deliberately misleading.

What we found

Age plays a role here. As children get older, they feel more confident about telling fake news from real news. 42% of Australian teens aged 13-16 reported being able to tell fake news from real news, compared with 27% of children aged 8-12.


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We found young Australians are not inclined to verify the accuracy of news they encounter online. Only 10% said they often tried to work out whether a story presented on the internet is true. A significant number indicated they sometimes tried to verify the truthfulness of news (36%). More than half indicated they either hardly ever tried (30%) or never tried to do this (24%).


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We also asked young Australians how much attention they pay to thinking about the origin of news stories, particularly those they access online. More than half indicated they paid at least some attention or a lot of attention to the source of news stories (54%). However, 32% said they paid very little attention and 14% said they paid no attention at all.

To us, the circulation of fake news on social media is troubling, given what we know about how social media platforms create news filter bubbles that reinforce existing worldviews and interests.

Even more concerning, though, is the way many social media platforms allow people with vested interests to push content into feeds after paying to target people based on their age, location or gender, as well as their status changes, search histories and the content they have liked or shared.

There is often no transparency about why people are seeing particular content on their social media feeds or who is financing this content. Furthermore, much online content is made by algorithms and “bots” (automated accounts, rather than real people) that respond to trends in posts and searches in order to deliver more personalised and targeted content and advertising.

Where are young Australians getting their news?

Given these concerns, we used our survey to ask just how much news young Australians get through social media.

With all the hype around young people’s mobile and internet use, it might come as a surprise that social media did not emerge as their top news source and nor is it their most preferred.

80% of young Australians said they had consumed news from at least one source in the day before the survey was conducted. Their most frequent source was family members (42%), followed by television (39%), teachers (23%), friends (22%), social media (22%), and radio (17%). Print newspapers trailed a distant last (7%).

However, this is not to diminish the significance of young people’s use of social media to consume news. Two-thirds of teens said they often or sometimes accessed news on social media (66%) and more than one third of children stated they did so (33%).

For teens, Facebook was by far the most popular social media site for getting news with over half (51%) using it for this purpose. For children, YouTube was by far the social media platform used most for news. 37% got news from this site.


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What should we be doing?

There is no doubt that legal and regulatory changes are needed to address the issue of fake news online.

However, education must also play a critical role. Media education opportunities should be more frequently available in schools to ensure young Australians meaningfully engage with news media.

Media Arts in the Australian Curriculum is one of the world’s only official systematic media literacy policies for children in preschool to year 10, but it is being under-used. Our survey suggests only one in five young Australians received lessons in the past year to help them critically analyse news, and only one third had made their own news stories at school.

The curriculum also needs to ensure young people understand the politics, biases and commercial imperatives embedded in technologies, platforms and digital media.

The ConversationOur survey shows that young people are consuming lots of news online. However, many are not critiquing this news or they don’t know how to. The implications of this are not necessarily self-evident or immediate, but they may be very wide reaching by influencing young people’s capacity to participate in society as well-informed citizens.

Tanya Notley, Senior Lecturer in Digital Media, Western Sydney University and Michael Dezuanni, Associate professor, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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When truth is the first casualty of politics and journalism

The Conversation

Denis Muller, University of Melbourne

Donald Trump’s conduct throughout his campaign for president of the United States has brought into renewed focus a question made famous by Pontius Pilate: what is truth?

Trump has exploited the 24/7 symbiotic news cyclone in which social media and the professional journalism of traditional media are both caught up.

He first creates social media excitement with an outrageous lie, then watches as traditional media, scrambling for “hits” and “eyeballs”, amplify those lies without first troubling with time-consuming verification.

This is an ethical crisis for the media, but it also a crisis for democracy.

In September this year, The Economist ran a cover story headed:

The art of the lie: Post-truth politics in the age of social media.

It took Trump’s campaign as the paradigm case. It said of Trump that he:

… inhabits a fantastical realm where Barack Obama’s birth certificate was faked, the president founded Islamic State, the Clintons are killers and the father of a rival was with Lee Harvey Oswald before he shot John F. Kennedy.

In this post-truth age, The Economist argued, truth was of secondary importance. The lies of people like Trump were not designed to create a false view of the world but to reinforce prejudices.

In the spring 2016 issue of Meanjin, The Guardian Australia’s political editor, Katharine Murphy, posed this question: what role for journalism if facts no longer count?

Describing the current journalistic operating environment, Murphy wrote:

We have to understand that we now practise professionally in a post-truth environment, where our audiences can increasingly choose to exist comfortably inside bubbles, selecting only the information and commentary that reinforces their views, rejecting other material.

To paraphrase The Economist again, voters are cast adrift on an ocean of lies, with nothing to cling to.

The common factor underlying both critiques is that voters are so disconnected from, and disillusioned with, the political process, and have become so inured to the dishonesty of politicians and the media content of politics, that they take refuge in the reinforcement of their own prejudices.

Thus they are easy prey for the outpourings of post-truth politics.

For democratic capitalist polities, where voters depend on a bedrock of reliable information on which to base decisions about political, economic and social life, this state of affairs is ultimately unsustainable.

How did we get here?

In 2011, Lindsay Tanner, finance minister in the Rudd Labor government, published a book called Sideshow. In it, he excoriated politicians and the media alike for dumbing down democracy by focusing on personalities, ephemera and trivia.

Broadly speaking, his thesis was that as the traditional media laboured under the acute financial pressures induced by the digital revolution, they increasingly reduced everything – including politics – to entertainment.

Politicians had then responded by playing to the new rules, so that the contest of ideas had been supplanted by a contest for laughs.

Today his argument looks prescient. A dumbed-down democracy devalues the currency of political debate. A devalued currency engenders distrust. Distrust leads to disillusionment, cynicism and disengagement.

It is made worse by a climate of economic insecurity and a sense of inequity exemplified in Australia by the popular rejection of the 2014 federal budget. When people feel threatened or pushed aside or left behind, they look for scapegoats and are eager to believe anything that supplies them with one.

Post-truth politics, with its comforting reinforcement of prejudice and its fleetingly entertaining outrages, is ready-made for the task.

What is to be done?

Murphy’s piece provided a useful starting point. She says that if journalists think technological change was the biggest threat to their profession, they were deluding themselves. She wrote:

We have to look in the mirror. Our intemperate excesses have discounted our own moral value. Our own behaviour has helped fuel a lack of trust.

So the profession of journalism has a responsibility not to just swim along in the flood of untruths and “truthiness” – something close to the truth but in fact a lie – because it makes for extra “hits” or a fleeting laugh.

It has a responsibility to verify facts before publication – not afterwards – and call out falsehoods for what they are.

That way, the professional media can place a filter on the flood and uphold an ideal expressed by John Stuart Mill: to exchange error for truth and to create a livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error.

The ConversationDenis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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