Tougher regulation of tech firms to stop fake news is backed by two in five consumers

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President Donald Trump tweets about fake news (Source: Getty)

Two in five news consumers back tougher regulation for tackling the scourge of fake news, new research reveals.

And just 13 per cent of audiences in the UK have noticed efforts made by tech companies to tackle the issue, such as flags next to posts signalling doubt over their veracity.  

A similar number of people who back stronger rules said people should also choose more credible news sources, according to research by Kantar involving more than 8,000 people in four countries. 

Read more: How to spot fake news, by Facebook

Just a third of people trust social media as a place for news and it was found to be the least trusted of all media, while printed new magazines were found to be the most trusted (72 per cent), followed by 24-hour news TV (69 per cent).

And the rise of fake news has hit social media hardest when it comes to their reputation for being trusted: 58 per cent said they trusted social media less in the wake of the issue, compared to 24 per cent who said the same for mainstream news.

"We know the major social media companies have started to address the fake news problem," said WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell. 

"In quantifying the extent to which ‘fake news’ has damaged the reputations of social media brands as sources of news, this study reinforces how important that work will be moving forward.”

It comes as Facebook, Twitter and Google prepare to face US politicians this week, over how their platforms may have been used by Russia to sway the US Presidential election.

Read more: Media researchers say outright fake news on Facebook is rare in the UK

But many consumers are not clear on exactly what fake news is. The majority - 58 per cent - said it was a deliberately fabricated story by mainstream news. 42 per cent said it was a story published by someone pretending to be a news organisation.

Many still believe fake news had an influence over the outcome of elections, however. Those in the US and Brazil believed it had an impact on politics at home, while those in the UK and France believe its affected foreign elections, not their own.

Overall, 39 per cent of those surveyed said they were referring to more news sources than they were a year ago. And the scales were tipped in favour of trusting that news was real and not fake: 56 per cent said they believed what they read was true "most of the time".

Read more: Read: MPs letter to Zuckerberg demanding info on Russia Brexit meddling

And more young people were found to have paid for news in the past year than those aged over 35 - 42 per cent versus 22 per cent.

“Traditional news media have largely seen off the fake news accusations and continue to enjoy high levels of trust among news audiences," said Kantar boss Eric Salama, adding that the challenge for them was how to monetise that loyalty.

"Traditional news media need to have the confidence to invest in their brands, while devising flexible subscription models for younger generations of consumers who have grown comfortable with subscription models."