Stanford researchers say young Americans have no idea what’s news

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According to a study from Stanford University, American youth aren’t great at telling the difference between real news and fake stories online.

The study assessed the ability of 7,804 middle-school, high-school and college students to differentiate between news stories and “sponsored content.” Some of the stories put in front of the teenagers were news, some were biased, others were misleading and some were just plain old advertisements.

The study found 82 percent of middle-schoolers couldn’t tell the difference between news and sponsored content, and two-thirds didn’t flag a post by a bank executive calling for young people seek out financial planning help.

High school students fared a little better, though 40 percent of them thought a non-sourced photo and suggestive headline was evidence of toxic conditions near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan.

The inability of readers to tell the difference between real news and fake news has been a hot topic, especially in the wake of the presidential election.

Since then, both Google and Facebook have committed to refusing advertising dollars from fake-news peddlers, and while the move is a step forward, hyper-partisan pieces and advertising are not banned from either platform.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.