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Saturday, September 9 • 4:05pm - 4:38pm
Fake News, Fake Problem? An Analysis of the Fake News Audience in the Lead Up to the 2016 Presidential Election

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In light of the recent U.S. election, many fear that “fake news” has become a powerful and sinister force in the news media environment. These fears stem from the idea that as news consumption increasingly takes place via social media sites, news audiences are more likely to find themselves drawn in by sensational headlines to sources that lack accuracy or legitimacy, with troubling consequences for democracy. However, we know little about the extent to which online audiences are exposed to fake news, and how these outlets factor into the average digital news diet. In this paper, I argue that fears about fake news consumption echo fears about partisan selective exposure, in that both stem from concerns that more media choice leads audiences to consume news that align with their beliefs, and to ignore news that does not. Yet recent studies have concluded that the partisan media audience (1) is small and (2) also consumes news from popular, centrist outlets. I use online news audience data to show a similar phenomenon plays out when it comes to fake news. Findings reveal that social media does indeed play an outsized role in generating traffic to fake news sites; however, the actual fake news audience is small, and a large portion of it also visits more popular, “real” news sites. I conclude by discussing the implications of a news media landscape where the audience is exposed to contradictory sources of public affairs information

Moderators
GL

Gavin Logan

National Urban League

Presenter

Saturday September 9, 2017 4:05pm - 4:38pm
ASLS Hazel Hall - Room 225

Attendees (16)