Fake News Not Persuasive, According To MSU Study

May 17, 2017

Dreaded “fake news” and biased search algorithms are not instrumental in swaying public opinion, according to a Michigan State University researcher.

William Dutton, of MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences, with researchers from the University of Oxford and the university of Ottawa, surveyed 14,000 internet users from the United States, Britain, France, Poland, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Despite findings that were specific to a certain country, concerns about internet searches lowering the quality of information are unwarranted—at least according to the study.

The study also discusses “Filter bubbles.” Filter bubbles are created when online algorithms guess what information a user desires based on their location and search history.

Filter bubbles are problematic, because hypothetically a user trapped in a filter bubble would only consume news that’s tailored to their personal biases. This could cause the user to miss out on important breaking news.

The study labels the concern over filter bubbles as overhyped.

The study argues that internet users actually consume diverse information across multiple media platforms. This information challenges their viewpoints, rather than simply coddling them.

There are patterns between the 7 nations studied, but people in France and Germany are shown to use search engines less and rely more on traditional media. In the United Kingdom, people use search engines and the internet less—placing more of their trust in broadcast media.

The study can be downloaded here.