Stanford Study: Teens Clueless On Distinguishing Sponsored Content

Rich OrdSocial Media

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A Stanford Study of 7,804 students from middle school through college illustrated that young people are clueless in knowing what is actual news versus sponsored content. This study comes on the heels of fake news hysteria that Facebook and other social media sites possibly impacted the presidential election. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that this is crazy considering that there was so-called fake news about both candidates.

According to the Wall Street Journal, who first reported on the study, 82% of middle-schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a real news story on a website. The study indicates that most students didn't look at the source of a news story, but were more motivated based on the actual content of the headline link or the associated image.

The study noted that after showing high school students images of deformed daisies on a photo-sharing site, 40% of them believed that was strong evidence of contamination from the Japan Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster, even though no source or location was provided.

I see that the Wall Street Journal and others reporting on this study link it directly to the "fake news" controversy, which literally has nothing to do with this research. They were looking at sponsored content and sponsored news links from automated ad serving firms like Taboola and Adblade, not individuals posting misleading news on social media.

Some people, even Harvard professors, can't remove their own political biases when interpreting research.

Rich Ord