People spread fake news because they believe anything their friends post

At the moment, we are so deep in the fake-news morass that it’s hard to even envision a way out. One possibility, though, is old-school media literacy: Teach people the importance of only believing and sharing stories from high-quality news sources. After all, while people don’t trust “the media” in general, polls suggest Americans actually do trust major outlets like ABC, NBC, CBS, and The Wall Street Journal — in fact, only a quarter of Americans say they don’t trust those outlets. In theory, if you could better explain to Americans which outlets not to trust, that would help clean things up online.

Unfortunately, that probably wouldn’t work. In a new study, “Who Shared It?: How Americans Decide What News to Trust on Social Media,” a group of researchers show the rather alarming extent to which Americans ignore the source of a given claim, focusing way more on the trustworthiness of the person sharing it. For most people, it seems, that question is way more salient than whether the latest revelation about Hillary Clinton came from CNN versus PrisonPlanet.

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