Seeing the Round Corners

June 24, 2019


The consequences of deepfake news will most likely end up in the laps of “us” journalists “to fix the problem.” The in-depth commentary on deepfake news is taking a little “deeper” analysis and will appear on July 8th. (next week being a holiday week – July 4th).

In the meantime, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center is incredibly important as a heads up for the reader to understand how critical the problem of fake news and deepfake video evidence is. Persuasive is “how many Americans say the creation and spread of news and information is causing significant harm to the nation and needs to be stopped.”

 (NOTE;  The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. Pew conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis, and other data driven social science research, and does not take policy positions. Information in today’s column is sourced from a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel, February 19 – March 4, 2019; 6,127 U. S. adults were contacted for the survey).

Here are the major points established by the Pew survey.

  1. More Americans view made-up news as a very big problem for the country than identify terrorism, illegal immigration, racism and sexism that way;
  2. Nearly 68 percent say made-up news and information greatly impacts Americans’ confidence in government institutions;
  3. Roughly 54 percent say it is having a major impact on their confidence in each other;
  4. U. S. adults blame political leaders and activists far more than journalists for the creation of made-up news intended to mislead the public, BUT they believe it is primarily the responsibility of the journalists to fix the problem;
  5. The respondents think the issue will get worse in the foreseeable future (writer’s comment:  a most significant factor with the 2020 election in a little over a year);
  6. Vast majority of Americans say they sometimes or often encounter made-up news, and respond by altering their news consumption habits, including by fact-checking the news they get and changing the sources they turn to for news;
  7. About 79 percent of U. S. adults believe steps should be taken to restrict made-up news as opposed to 20 percent who see it as protected communication;
  8. Americans do not see journalists as a leading contributor of made-up news and information; 53 percent think they have the greatest responsibility to reduce it – far more than those who say the onus mostly falls on the government (12 percent) or technology (9 percent), but 20 percent say the public itself bears the most responsibility to reduce it;
  9. Another finding suggests challenges inherent in such a public responsibility and effort, with 52 percent of Americans who say they shared made-up news themselves, but a vast majority of them said they didn’t know it was made up when they did so;
  10. Concern about made-up news has also affected how U. S. adults interact with each other. Half say they have avoided talking with someone because they thought that person would bring made-up news into the conversation; and
  11. In the digital environment, half of social media news consumers have stopped following someone they know because they thought the person was posting made-up news and information, and the same percentage have stopped following a news organization for this reason.


As readers might expect, the issues covered in the Pew survey split along party lines when it came to who is to blame – Republicans or Democrats – on the issue of made-up news, with far more blame placed on journalists. Republicans see the made-up news issue as a bigger problem and place far more blame on journalists than Democrats.

Significant is that Republicans place more blame on activist groups for creating made-up news and information, close to twice the rate of Democrats, with political leaders and their staff, though, rank high for both sides of the aisle – half or more of each party say they create a lot.

Political awareness, based on how closely one follows politics is among other factors that contribute to differences in how the threat of made-up news and information is perceived.

Noteworthy is that those who prefer to get their news through social media do not appear to be all that different from adults who prefer other ways to get news, with Americans who prefer social media are about as likely as those who prefer other news pathways to say they frequently come across made-up news.

Finally, 37 percent of Americans see journalists inserting their own views into coverage as a very big problem in how the public stays informed.

The reader's comments or questions are always welcome. E-mail me at