Study: 86% of people don't fact check news spotted on social media

A new Zignal Labs and Harris Poll study explored how the spread of fake news affects brands.

Study: 86% of people don't fact check news spotted on social media

SAN FRANCISCO: Fake news is not only a problem in politics; it’s also a new crisis issue that brands need to be prepared for.

A study from Zignal Labs and Harris Poll looked at how people consume news and how it perpetuates the spread of fake news. To start, the study found that 86% of people don’t fact check the news they read on social media. For brands, this could mean that if a viral tweet makes the rounds on Twitter, 86% of people who see it may not bother to check if it’s true.

"We heard a lot about fake news in the presidential election," said Randy Brasche, VP of marketing at Zignal. "What we’ve noticed is this is really a new form of cyber warfare on brands. Fake news is affecting presidential elections and it's impacting brands too."

Millennials are driving a change in news consumption that makes it easier for fake news to spread, Brasche said. About 68% of millennials get most of their news on social media and 45% rely on social media as their primary source of news, compared to older generations, where more than half get their news from television.

"Brands looking at it from a millennial's perspective also need to look at how people consume their news through videos, social media, and alternative news websites," Brasche said. "All these other websites will pick up on the news and put their own spin on it. Brands need to be in control of that message and have a plan in place to know what's happening online."

The study also looked at how fake news spreads from one person or website to a national media outlet. It all starts with people sharing news within their friend group. The study found that 79% of Americans on social media said they trust at least some of the content shared by friends, and 32% will share articles that friends have posted.

From there, the fake information can get picked up by an influencer and make it onto an alternate news website, which about 27% of millennials trust. The fake news can finally make it to a mainstream media outlet, which half of Americans of all ages still believe is trustworthy, according to the study.

"Brands need to understand what's happening in real-time across the social media spectrum," Brasche said. "Data and analytics on social media need to be part of the day-to-day work for a communications pro."

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