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Nearly 70 percent of people are worried about fake news as a ‘weapon,’ survey says

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People are confused about the credibility of "news" and where it comes from, according to a global report.

Fifty-nine percent of people surveyed for the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer said they were unsure what they see in the media is true and what isn't, while nearly seven in 10 said they worry about fake news being used as "a weapon."

Almost two-thirds (63 percent) said the average person does not know how to tell good journalism from rumor or falsehoods. The report surveyed people in 28 countries.

"In a world where facts are under siege, credentialed sources are proving more important than ever," Stephen Kehoe, global chair of reputation at Edelman, said. "There are credibility problems for both platforms and sources. People's trust in them is collapsing."

The media in general — including news organizations as well as platforms such as Facebook and Google — is the least trusted institution, when compared to others including the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and business. Only those in China, Indonesia and India said they trust the media, with those in Singapore, the Netherlands and United Arab Emirates feeling neutral towards it. People in the U.S., U.K, and 20 other countries did not trust the media.

Respondents had a broad definition of "the media." Eighty-nine percent included journalists; 40 percent included brands; 48 percent included social media platforms; and 25 percent considered search engines as being part of the media.

Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of those surveyed said they got their news from platforms, including social media sites and search engines, but trust in those platforms decreased in 21 of the 28 countries Edelman surveyed. Conversely, journalism was more trusted than platforms in 21 of the 28 countries surveyed. Only those in Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico and Turkey said they trusted platforms more than journalism.

The spread of fake news has been a big problem for Facebook, with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg announcing changes to its news feed this month to help weed out unreliable sources. Edelman's survey was conducted in October and November 2017 before Facebook's update.

The Trust Barometer also revealed that U.S. institutions have suffered a crisis in public trust, driven largely by a lack of faith in government.

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer offers an annual snapshot of a country's trust in its government, media, businesses and NGOs. It includes 28 countries and more than 1,000 people were surveyed online in each between October 28 and November 20, 2017.