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June 15, 2018, 8:55 a.m.
Audience & Social

There’s a big difference between the number of people who worry about fake news and who say they’ve actually seen it

Plus: Facebook looks to hire “news credibility specialists,” and Reuters tries to figure out if highly partisan sites are gaining traction in and outside the U.S. (it looks as if they’re not).

The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

“The biggest single gap between perception and what people actually see.” The Reuters Digital News Report for 2018 — which we wrote up here — includes big sections on fake news and misinformation. A few takeaways:

— People worry about fake news, but have trouble thinking of times they’ve actually seen it.

In focus groups (U.K., U.S., Brazil, Germany this year) we find that ordinary people spontaneously raise the issue of ‘fake news’ in a way they didn’t a year ago. This is not surprising given extensive use by some politicians to describe media they don’t like — and widespread coverage by the media. But we find audience perceptions of these issues are very different from those of politicians and media insiders.

Yes, people worry about fabricated or ‘made up’ news (58 percent), but they struggle to find examples of when they’ve actually seen this (26 percent). Of all our categories this is the biggest single gap between perception and what people actually see.

— Reuters wanted to figure out if highly partisan sites are gaining traction both inside and outside the United States. “We worked with local European partners in ten countries to identify a number of sites that matched our criteria; namely websites or blogs which have a political or ideological agenda, mainly distributed through social media.” In the U.S., U.K., and Germany, they found “a large gap between awareness of these sites and actual usage. This suggests either that their impact has been amplified by mainstream media coverage or that people have used them in the past, but that they are less relevant today.”

Reuters measured how partisan the sites were: “We asked all respondents to self-identify their political views and then we combined these data with the online sources they use to create the audience maps seen below.” Here’s the one for the U.S.:

“The users of the right-wing websites Breitbart, The Daily Caller, and InfoWars have an audience profile that is much further to the right than other websites (with the exception of Fox News). Occupy Democrats’ audience is at the left side of the political spectrum, close to other outlets with predominantly left-wing audiences like NPR and Huffington Post.”

As for age and gender: “Looking at the demographic profile of different sites in the U.S., we see that they are used by both young and old, though Breitbart in the U.S. is more popular among those over 35 (8 percent reach vs 3 percent reach among those below 35). It is also predominantly used by men (68 percent of its audience).”

The full report is here.

“Audience members intrinsically linked fake news to social platforms.” Columbia’s Tow Center released its giant Platforms and Publishers report this week; my colleague Shan Wang covered that report here. One bit: Tow, with NORC, surveyed 1,127 journalists from 1,025 newsrooms across the United States and Canada. (Some of the results of that survey were released by NORC separately; we wrote them up here.) Of those surveyed:

Seventy-six percent of respondents said that Facebook wasn’t doing enough to “combat the problem of fake news and misinformation” on its platform, while 71 percent said the same about Twitter, and 65 percent about Google. Facebook consistently drew the strongest criticism from publishers in all areas of our research.

Facebook is hiring “news credibility specialists.” Business Insider found a job posting that has since been changed to be more generic and is referred to as “News Publisher Specialist,” while “News Credibility Specialist” is still in the permalink. Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, told Axios that the people in the jobs would “help us begin to build out a process for verifying different news organizations.”

Illustration from L.M. Glackens’ The Yellow Press (1910) via The Public Domain Review.

Laura Hazard Owen is the editor of Nieman Lab. You can reach her via email ( or Twitter DM (@laurahazardowen).
POSTED     June 15, 2018, 8:55 a.m.
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