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February 8, 2017updated 09 Feb 2017 10:00am

Survey suggests 96% of Britons can’t tell fake news from true reports

By Freddy Mayhew

Less than five per cent of people surveyed by Channel 4 were able to correctly identify fake news stories when shown examples of them among true news reports, the broadcaster has revealed.

The figure comes from a YouGov survey commissioned by Channel 4 to kickstart its Fake News Week exploring the issue of “disinformation purporting to be fact” through special reports and programmes.

Fake news is defined as stories that are entirely fabricated, but which can riff on a popular news topic. Websites that share it are typically set up to promote propaganda or make financial gain (though many stride the two).

When shown six stories, three fake (one of which is pictured top) and three true, only four per cent of the 1,684 UK adults surveyed for Channel 4 were able to correctly identify all three fake news stories.

Overall, half of all respondents thought at least one of the stories was fake. That number went up to 71 per cent for those who said Facebook was their primary source of news.

For those who relied on broadcasters for the news (which applied to more than half of those surveyed), the figure was 47 per cent.

Only 17 per cent of respondents said newspapers were their primary source of news, while six per cent said it was Facebook and two per cent Twitter.

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Other websites (i.e. not newspaper brands) made up the primary source of news for 17 per cent of respondents.

Just under half of those surveyed said they were worried about the effects of fake news, climbing to 57 per cent for those aged 18 to 24.

Two thirds said they thought social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, aren’t doing enough to tackle fake news, while more than half (55 per cent) said they thought the government wasn’t doing enough.

Overall, 46 per cent of respondents said they thought more fact-checking sites were needed, rising to 69 per cent among 18 to 24-year-olds.

Parliamentary group the Culture, Media and Sport Committee has today launched a probe into the “growing phenomenon of fake news”. It follows a similar inquiry launched by the Labour Party in December.

Director of news at Storyful, a social media news agency which verifies content for its subscribers, told Press Gazette in November that fake news was a “major issue” and “damaging to the public discourse”.


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