In a report released in November, the researchers evaluated the ability of 3,446 students – from 16 urban and suburban school districts in 14 states – to judge the credibility and accuracy of digital sources of information. Overall, on four of the assigned six tasks, over 90 percent of students received no credit at all. Out of all of the student responses, fewer than 3 percent earned full credit. Students continued to display a troubling tendency to accept websites at face value. A few of the lowlights from the report:
- Fifty-two percent of students believed a grainy video claiming to show ballot stuffing in the 2016 Democratic primaries constituted “strong evidence” of voter fraud in the U.S. The video was actually shot in Russia. Among more than 3,000 responses, only three students tracked down the source of the video – even though a simple Google search would have quickly exposed the ruse.
- Two-thirds of students couldn’t tell the difference between news stories and ads (set off by the words “Sponsored Content”) on Slate’s homepage.
- Ninety-six percent of students did not consider why ties between a climate change website and the fossil fuel industry might lessen that website’s credibility. Instead of investigating who was behind the site, students focused on the site’s aesthetics, its top-level domain (.org or .com), or how it portrayed itself on the About page.