The One About Fake News

Can news ever be fake if it comes from a friend?

Right now you’re probably thinking ‘yeah, obviously, fake is fake, period.’ But seriously, stop and think about it.

Because it’s not news that people will genuinely follow the advice of those they admire or trust. I mean, how many times have you checked out something; a recipe, a video, a product, anything. All because someone you like told you about it? Personally, I lose track when I try.

So I’m writing this post to reflect on a new Pew Research study I’ve come cross. It’s found an interesting trend in news consumption and the success of peer-to-peer refers. Unsurprisingly this report has found that social media is going from strength to strength as a primary news source. Now a whopping 53% of people report coming across their non-business based news directly through social media, with traditional news websites down at 22%! Oh and 10% even reported back Facebook when asked to name a primary news source…. yeah, 10% consider Facebook a dedicated news site.

But buried beneath the greatest hits about the storming success of social media as a communications tool is an interesting trend.


This study reveals that the spread of news by either emails or texts from friends or family elicited the most activity. Now by activity, this means consuming the media itself and/or sharing what you’ve seen. 73% of these instances got a reaction from the friend it was passed on to. To put this in some context, this is outpacing even finding an article on social media and direct visits to a news organization’s website. Here people only followed-up in about half of news instances (53% and 47%, respectively).

So what does all this mean? Well, the study also pointed at that people could recall the places they were consuming their news from in most cased. It’s got me thinking, perhaps people are online being duped by official-looking sites that post semi-credible stories. Maybe the proliferation of fake news right now is down to our willingness to believe and even follow our friends?

Now I’m not saying that friendship blinds us all to the truth. But trust is a powerful thing and this study seems to show that it can lead to passing on messages that might not be 100% accurate. I suppose it makes sense; friendships are built on trust, at least some kind of shared values or interests, and sustaining them can mean a lot to each of us.


What do you think? Is is possible that you’ve brought into a fake news story just because a friend you trust passed it on?


  1. At this point I’ve pretty much unfollowed all my facebook friends so I don’t think I’m guilty of trusting news shared that way. But I definitely think you could be onto something. Nobody really questions information they’ve been given by a friend (it would be kind of rude I suspect).


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