If young people are really so susceptible to fake news, why are so many of them turning to established sources to corroborate what they read?
Social media services have become a leading information source for so many of us these days.
But anyone concerned that this creates a generation of unthinking info-automatons should read The Truth About Youth, a survey of 11- to 21-year-olds.
It shows how four in five young people actively check the validity of the news they see in social media.
And those checks are wide-ranging:
- Examining the professionalism of the story's presentation.
- Check if it was by an organisation they have heard of.
- Considering whether a trusted party shared it.
- Contemplate the likelihood of the story being true.
- Looking through social comments.
- Checking to see if the same story appears elsewhere.
According to Ofcom's News Consumption Survey 2022, social media are the "main platform for news" for 79% of people aged 16 to 24.
But it's worth unpicking what "main platform" really means. The survey also acknowledges:
"Social media platforms continue to score relatively poorly on attributes, such as ‘trust’.
"Teens remain more sceptical about news on social media than other sources."
What is emerging, then, is an information ecology in two parts:
- a contradictory picture in which audiences gravitate most toward the channel they trust least.
- divergence between discovery of news stories, which happens considerably through social media, and active engagement with them, which happens through sources themselves.
Those two schisms - trust and engagement - are the ones which news publishers will now feel they are in a good position to respond to.
With those who use TikTok to get their news saying they get around a quarter of it from news organisations, publishers are already on their way.