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Yale Study Finds Flaw In Facebook’s Fight Against Fake News

Elise Amendola
A user gets ready to launch Facebook on an iPhone in 2017.

Facebook’s plan to fight fake news may have a fatal flaw. That’s according to a Yale study on how people read and react to news on the social media platform.

Last month CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Facebook users he would ask them to choose the news outlets they trusted most, and they’d prioritize those sources in what they show users. But Zuckerberg said Facebook would only factor in people who were familiar with a news outlet – his thinking is, if you’ve heard of it, you can make an informed opinion.

Yale professor David Rand is one of the study’s authors. He and his colleagues looked at how much people trust outlets ranging from mainstream sources like the New York Times, to partisan sites like Breitbart, to actual fake news sites. They found using Facebook’s method, people said they trusted partisan sites and fake news way more.

“Who is it that’s going to be familiar with a given fake news site? Most people have never heard of it. And the people that have heard of that kind of content are much more likely to be the kind of people that seek that content out, and that like it or believe it or trust it.”

Rand says Facebook has been receptive, and he thinks they’ll find a way to improve their fight against fake news. Now he and his colleagues want to test out the most effective methods for anti-fake news intervention on social media, so users can fight back, too. 

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.