Research ArticleSOCIAL SCIENCES

Evaluating the fake news problem at the scale of the information ecosystem

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Science Advances  03 Apr 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 14, eaay3539
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay3539

Abstract

“Fake news,” broadly defined as false or misleading information masquerading as legitimate news, is frequently asserted to be pervasive online with serious consequences for democracy. Using a unique multimode dataset that comprises a nationally representative sample of mobile, desktop, and television consumption, we refute this conventional wisdom on three levels. First, news consumption of any sort is heavily outweighed by other forms of media consumption, comprising at most 14.2% of Americans’ daily media diets. Second, to the extent that Americans do consume news, it is overwhelmingly from television, which accounts for roughly five times as much as news consumption as online. Third, fake news comprises only 0.15% of Americans’ daily media diet. Our results suggest that the origins of public misinformedness and polarization are more likely to lie in the content of ordinary news or the avoidance of news altogether as they are in overt fakery.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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