Nearly half of voters in US believe 'fake news' impacted the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election

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Nearly half of voters in the US believe fake news had an impact on the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election, research has revealed.

A new report was released on Tuesday after Facebook admitted that Russia-linked posts were potentially viewed by 126 million Americans.

Fake Facebook accounts linked to Russian agents published about 80,000 posts over two years in attempt to influence US politics.

Facebook has said it is determined to do everything it can to address “this new threat.”

The study showed that the media phenomenon has damaged the reputation of social media and online only news sources. However, almost one in five admitted to sharing a story after reading only the headline.

Half of American voters may have seen Russian Facebook posts about the US election, the social network has revealed (AFP/Getty Images)

Researchers surveyed 2,000 individuals each in the US, the UK, Brazil and France.

Across all four surveyed countries, nearly half of news audiences believe fake news had an influence on the outcome of their most recent election. In the US, 47 per cent believed this was the case.

The data comes as an alleged Russian misinformation campaign was revealed in written testimony by Facebook, Twitter and Google about attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

According to Facebook, the posts focused on divisive social and political issues such as relations, and were linked to St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency.

Claims of Russian interference surround Mr Trump’s 2016 election (PA Archive/PA Images)

However, the study revealed some recognition – 22 per cent of participants in the US – that companies like Facebook and Google are taking steps to tackle fake news.

But news coverage of politics and elections on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Whatsapp, was said to be less trustworthy by nearly 60 per cent of news audiences due to fake news.

Only one in three recognise social media sites and messaging apps as a trusted news source.

Online only news outlets also sustained significant reputational damage in this respect: they were ‘trusted less’ by 41 per cent of news audiences.

Meanwhile, trust in mainstream news brands remains intact. More than two thirds of respondents said they trusted news magazines, newspapers and broadcast news programmes.

Print magazines and newspapers did experience some loss of trust, however, with 23 per cent of audiences responding that they ‘trusted less’.

The ‘Trust in News’ survey, conducted by Kantar, also showed that news audiences are becoming more widely informed. Almost two thirds of social media users worry that ‘personalisation’ will create a ‘news filter bubble’ and more than three quarters of news consumers claim to have independently fact-checked a story.

Contrary to this, almost one in five admitted to sharing a story after reading only the headline.

Eric Salama, chief executive of Kantar, said: “Traditional news media have largely seen off the “fake news” accusations and continue to enjoy high levels of trust among news audiences. The challenge now is for those companies to monetise that loyalty and we’ve identified some routes for them to explore.”

The Standard has approached Facebook for further comment.