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Scientific study of fake news reveals pretty much what you'd expect

(Photo: Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla)

Here’s some real news about fake news that most people will probably find wholly unsurprising: It’s usually pro-Trump, and most people who fall for it are Republicans who are over 60. That shocking stuff comes from a “the first scientific, data-based study of Americans’ exposure to fake news,” which has recently been published (via Mashable). The study looked at survey responses and browser history information from a “representative sample” of 2,525 Americans, a quarter of whom ended up visiting a fake news website between October and November of 2016—though the study didn’t include mobile browsing, limiting its usefulness significantly. (Also, as always, “fake news” means news that is not real, not news that is critical of a certain orange butthead.)

As predictable as some of the results are, there are some interesting revelations. For instance, the average person who reads fake news reasons a ton of fake news, but these people are only about 10 percent of the public—which is still a depressingly large number. Also, sites that try to hold back the tide of fake news, like Snopes or PolitiFact, are simply ignored by most people reading fake news, with the study indicating that nobody who read a fake news story went back and looked up a corresponding fact-check story to see if they’d been duped.


The bright-ish side of this is that the people behind the study determined that fake news is a “complement to” regular news rather than a total replacement. That means the older Republicans who read a lot of fake news also read a lot of real news, just as long as it feeds into their established beliefs. So maybe that’s not a bright-ish side at all?

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