Stanford study finds teens unable to distinguish between fake, real news

STANFORD (KTVU) -- A study released Tuesday by Stanford University researchers has found that a majority of middle-age students were unable to distinguish between real news and fake news, raising questions about how social media site can prevent the spread of misinformation.

According to the study, some 82 percent of junior high school students could not tell the difference between stories labeled as "sponsored content" and real news headlines. The Stanford researchers looked at 7,800 students enrolled in middle school through college.'

The research could be chilling because 88 percent of young adults regularly obtain their news from social media sites like Facebook, according to a study last year by the Media Insight Report and quoted in a story Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to his Facebook page recently to address one of the downsides of the internet: the rapid dissemination of bogus news stories on social networks.

Zuckerberg said in a post late Friday that his company was taking measures to curb what he said was a "relatively small" percentage of deliberately false stories. The measures include developing new tools to detect and classify "misinformation" and to make it easier for users to report the material.

He said the company also is looking into the possibility of working with established fact-checking organizations to evaluate content and into the feasibility of warning labels for stories flagged as false.

Critics have complained that a surge of fake news stories on Facebook may have swayed some voters to back President-elect Donald Trump. The company said on Monday that it was clarifying its advertising policy to emphasize that it won't display ads — thus cutting revenue — for sites that run information that is "illegal, misleading or deceptive, which includes fake news." That followed a similar step by Google, which acknowledged that it had let a false article about the election results slip into its list of recommended news stories.

"The bottom line is: we take misinformation seriously," the Facebook CEO said in his post. "Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information.

Zuckerberg's comments came after President Barack Obama, who is also attending the APEC summit, and others have been sharply critical of the spread of fake news online.

In a news conference Thursday in Berlin, Obama called bogus stories disseminated on Facebook and other social media platforms a threat to democracy. The president decried "an age where there's so much active misinformation and it's packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television."

Zuckerberg called the problem "complex, both technically and philosophically." It is also sensitive issue for a company that does not want to censor content such as legitimate political satire that some people find offensive. Facebook sees itself not as a traditional publisher, but as a facilitator of global communication.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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