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The Understanding of University Students Toward Fake News on Facebook

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Table of contents

  1. Online News and Media Literacy in Cambodia
  2. Understanding of Fake News
  3. Mass Media and Psychological Theory

The majority of Cambodia population is young people which 65.3 percent are under 30 years old (UNDP, 2017). The age of young people is between 15 to 24 years old, yet it’s subject to define an international perspective (UNGA, 1985). Cambodia has defined the young people as a youth, and their age is from 14 to 30 years old (the Youth Department of Cambodia, 2002). A Khmer proverb says that “Bamboo shoots are the future bamboo”, meaning that young people are bamboo shoots that will be growing to be the human resource of the country development (UNFPA, 2017). Therefore, the number of young people enroll university was increasing about 207, 000, between 2009 and 2013 (MOEY, 2013).

Most the young people go online, and Facebook is the main platform for those young people to communicate by just having a smartphone with the internet connection (DW, 2016). One out of five people has at least one smartphone, and they now turning online for consuming news (The Asia Foundation, 2016). The rise of social media usage has significantly grown which the latest update number of active internet users has risen by 2.1 million last year. Facebook has become a dominant social media platform for Cambodian users with a total of 4.8 million in 2017. In term of content, there are some graphics, photos, and external links with video bulks (Geek in Cambodia, 2017). However, Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith raised a concern that most of Facebook users read and share news articles without checking their legitimacy (The Phnom Penh Post, 2016).

Fake news is not new. One historical example is “Riots Erupt From Thai Embassy Protest” of January 2003 which a local Cambodia newspaper reported that a famous Thai superstar said Cambodia had stolen Angkor Wat, and she would not appear in Cambodia until it was returned to Thailand. The news report was picked up by Khmer media such as televisions, radios, and newspaper. Therefore, this news had pushed a nationalist idea getting stronger, and stronger that finally rioters burnt Thailand Embassy in Phnom Penh, destroying a building on 29th January 2003. Also, the Cambodia government had banned all Thai television programs in the country Hinton, A. (2006).

In the most recent of 2016, a notice from the Thai government spread over Cambodia’s online networking like a stain: canned nourishment made in Thailand had been polluted with HIV. At the asking of some anonymous boss, the story went, more than 200 HIV-positive specialists had deliberately tainted incalculable items with their blood. On Facebook, on Twitter, in mass messages, the message was clear: no Thai item was protected (SEA Globe, 2017). Snopes fack-check published an article about this issue at end of the year 2016. The article was about the Thai government informed that the rumor about HIV with canned product was a false information with no concrete evidence to make such an accusation, including to all involved Thai ministries like Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and Food and Drug Administration of Thailand said that all products of canned food need to be certified before export.

In July 2017, The Interior Ministry said it would explore an anecdote about kid prostitution in Phnom Penh that returned for the current week on CNN, a day after a conspicuous writer union condemned the U.S. to organize for reusing a “phony news” story that could negatively affect Cambodia’s universal notoriety. Another relative of fake news which is clickbait which is now one of the new emerging issues on the internet. Coming up with the most attractive headlines is to get people to click on them has become a new way to make money on the internet (the Communicator, 2017).

The finding of this research study will mainly why fake news is a real problem and how university students believe in fake news online. Therefore, understanding of fake news will be taken seriously once those university students are aware of the existence of fake news on their on their Facebook. Importantly, media literacy will be also a major course to help students understand media and information better for making a decision that impacts on their life.

Ministry of Education, Youths, and Sports recently is introducing Media Literacy as a new official high school curriculum for a new academic year (CCIM, 2016). Therefore, this research study can give more input to the ministry to expand the curriculum up to university level as one of the foundation year subjects, so that the impact of media literacy will be on the bigger scale. Also, the finding of this research will help students to understand why media literacy is important to them in daily life as they are consuming news regularly online since there is a certain number of them still have a limited knowledge about media literacy.

The literature here shows that fake news is a very new emerging problem from traditional media to online media, so the critical thinking on media will be increasing among university students as they will be able to evaluate news on social media if they can trust that news or how they can verify whether it’s fake news or reliable news. Media literacy can allow students to fluently read and write audiovisual language would have more competitive power to better thrive in our multimedia culture (Thoman & Jolls, 2005).

Online News and Media Literacy in Cambodia

Cambodia media recently also has been transforming from traditional media to multimedia and online media that’s the extension to the print media, radio, and television. Some media outlets have produced a professional and ethical context while some others just created their online platform just to follow the trend, but their content is not so professional yet. (CCI, 2015). Some local famous online media such as dap-news, post-Khmer, can, sabay, tmeytmey, khmerload, and khmer-note are producing breaking news, entertainment, and information. Some news website just translates, copy and paste from other sources and post them on their website which looks attractive to readers. Moreover, while media is changing from traditional to online, there are more advertisers go online as well as the number of readers online is rapidly increasing from year to year. The latest update of the number of Cambodian internet users 5,000,000 in November 2015 and at the same time there are 3,300,300 Facebook users in Cambodia (internetworldstats, 2015).

Although media online now is getting more and more attention when journalists also have changed the style of writing their news story to fit the nature of online media. Therefore, many news online website fails to maintain their news quality and news value as they just want to get more readers and viewers on their website. In order to get more readers on their sites, those media websites just create news content with entertainment, rumor, gossip, and sex-related stories ( Bun Y, 2015).

As readers also interested more in that kind of entertainment, gossip content more than a critical news content. A reflection from this readers’ preference, we clearly can see that the number of internet users is huge yet they still have limited media literacy. Media literacy refers to “the skillful application of literacy skills to media and technology messages. It’s long been an important part of the thoughtful civic engagement, and the digital revolution has made it even more critical.” (Weiss, 2013). Furthermore, Weiss (2013) stated that a true media literacy means is that a reader who does not understand the meaning beyond the message when he/she consumes media.

Understanding of Fake News

Fake news is a popular topic in the U.S. presidential election 2016, people were talking about how fake news impact them on social media. With 14 percent of American admit that social media is their most important source of information, and some are likely to believe those fake news that favors their preferred candidates for the election (Hunt and Mathew, 2017). News features trick American grown-ups around 75% of the time, as per an extensive scale new overview directed by Ipsos Public Affairs for BuzzFeed News. The review likewise found that individuals who refer to Facebook as a noteworthy wellspring of news will probably see counterfeit news features as exact as the individuals who depend less on the stage for news.

There is three main reason why fake news exists on the internet. First, the democratization which everyone has right to speak what they want online. Second, it’s the economic interest where those websites get viewers by clicking on fake new. Last but not least, it’s the degrading of media literacy that people do not have the ability to identify news (Gary Liu, (2017).

Fake news is defined as made up a story which is a new challenge for the new industry today (New York, 2017). The deinition of fake news: 1) unintentional reporting mistakes, 2) rumors that do not originate from a particular news article 3) conspiracy theories (these are, by deinition, dificult to verify as true or false, and they are typically originated by people who believe them to be true) 4) satire that is unlikely to be misconstrued as factual; 5) false statements by politicians; and 6) reports that are slanted or misleading but not outright false (Hunt and Mathew, 2017).

How is fake news different from biased or slanted medium or broadly? Is it an innocuous form of entertainment, like ctional lms or novels? Or does it have larger social costs? To answer these questions, we sketch a model of supply and demand for news loosely based on a model developed formally in (Stone, 2016).

Two distinct incentives may lead arms to distort their reports in the direction of consumers’ priors. First, when feedback about the true state is limited, rational consumers will judge a arm to be higher quality when its reports are closer to the consumers’ priors (Gentzkow and Shapiro, 2006). Second, consumers may prefer reports that conrm their priors due to psychological utility (Mullainathan and Shleifer, 2005). (Stone, 2016) show how these incentives can lead to biased reporting in equilibrium, and apply variants of this model to understand outcomes in traditional “mainstream” media.

Business Insider published a news article titled “Facebook is finally starting to hide posts from people who share spam and fake news” that mainly talked about it’s the ongoing process to combat with spam, and fake news on Facebook. Therefore, Facebook Company is now conducting a research to identify users who post a low-quality link of a news article.

On the other hand, online journalists fail to be proactive to fight again fake news, instead of others media organizations started to fight this issue. What even worse, some journalists produced fake news to some website for a public agenda-setting interest on some certain topics (Eston, 2016). The BBC started that Fact-checking, ABC News, and AP are now playing a vital role to combat with fake news, especially about political news on Facebook. Moreover, American students also have trouble identifying online news as two-thirds of them do not have the ability to differentiate advertisements from the news. Therefore, this study shows that 80% of American students failed to differentiate between advertisement and a new article, even though the advertisement articles labeled as “sponsored content”. The researcher believes that those students were not aware those articles were paid by advertisers (Stanford University, 2016).

Partisan media looks similar to fake news in some ways. Partisan media is created under a political agenda which will influence the public opinion toward a political party (Levendusky, 2013b). In addition, social media has been facilitating these form of media to spread misinformation to the mass audience by anonymous accounts who would target some users on the certain topic online (Mustafaraj and Metaxas, 2017).

The relationship between partisan media and fake news are extremely engaged more in the political environment. Partisan media looks like a propaganda of fakes news to attack opposition political party (Collins, 2016). As this case explains, fake news can set agenda to partisan media or both sides.

Mass Media and Psychological Theory

The agenda-setting theory media can also explain how much impact of these fake news and partisan media are holding to the society. Agenda-setting effects by the news media can be explained by a basic psychological trait, our need for orientation. Innate within each one of us is the need to understand the environment around us. Whenever we find ourselves in a new situation, there is an uncomfortable psychological feeling until we explore and mentally grasp at least the outlines of that setting.

Illusory truth theory also can explain why readers tend to believe in the fake news while they are consuming news online. Repetition may be one way to influence readers to believe what they hear more than two times or third times, so this kind of belief will make a misconception of the truth. Also, representing the same statements or information overtime will be more effective to the information more truthful than making new statements which readers find it hard to process (Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2015).

Readers choose what they believe on the internet relatively based on friends, family and their community people share it from one to another online. News, advertisement, and reports a tweet might be a true information when readers perceive this all information from their reliable people. (Constitutional Rights Foundation, 2017).

This also led to two theories that also can explain why people believe the fake news. The first theory, cognitive simplicity theory that explains how human brain process all the information and believe them. People tend to fall to what they hear and see quickly and naturally if they do not have to be skeptical toward that information. When we accept statements as true, we feel good and positively rewarded that we do not have to take efforts to be so critical. The second theory is cognitive dissonance which requires a conflicting thought when we receive information. As we have our social norm, religion, and education, so we seem not to believe what we first see and hear since it may not be true (Business Insider, 2017).

The research design will be conducted in a quantitative research. The sample population will be 250 students from three different universities. They will be asked a set of questionnaire, so their answer will be a discussion and finding of this research study. The questionnaire will be divided into three sections: the first section will answer to questions about the way how university students consume news online, second focuses on what ways university students use to identify fake news on Facebook, the last one will be to answer the numbers of university students are having media literacy.

The instrument will be a paper survey in Khmer. Before conduct the survey, the validation of the survey will be confirmed by a pilot with 30 students, consultation with experts and professor in the media field will be also a beneficial resource to get feedback to improve the quality of the final questionnaire.

A total of 250 respondents will take part in the survey. This is both genders with ages ranging from 18 to 24 years old. The respondents are currently studying at university, and are not graduated. Most of them access new media almost every day and have been using new media regularly.

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