Students Duped by Fake News and Biased Sources, Stanford Study Finds

Advertisement or news article? Think tank or lobbying group? Verified Facebook page or fake account? Students from middle school to high school might be social media savvy nowadays, but they're easily fooled by biased sources, ads that resemble news articles and even bogus social media pages, a study released Tuesday by the Stanford History Education Group showed.

From January 2015 to June 2016, students across 12 states completed 56 tasks that measured their ability to judge the credibility of online information. Researchers analyzed 7,804 responses from students located in a variety of schools, including in lower-resourced classrooms in Los Angeles and wealthier suburbs outside Minneapolis.

"We were shocked, to be honest, by how consistently poor these students did," said Joel Breakstone, director of the Stanford History Education Group. "Across the board, students really struggled. They read for content, and rarely do students consider, 'Where does this content come from?'"

The new findings come as tech firms, including Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet's Google, are contending with how to stop the spread of misinformation while balancing free speech. In the wake of Donald Trump's stunning presidential victory, some are blaming Facebook for not doing enough to combat fake news.

Over the weekend, Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said the company was looking at different ways to combat the spread of misinformation, such as showing warnings on stories flagged as fake or making it easier for people to report these posts.

But with snippets of new information constantly flooding social media sites and smartphones daily, experts say, educators and parents also will have to play a role in helping students separate fact from fiction.

"The No. 1 skill that kids are going to need in this 21st century is media literacy and the power of discernment," said Stephen Balkam, founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute....

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