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You Can’t Believe Everything You Read Online. Many Students Don’t Seem To Know That.

This question was on an online exam given recently to more than 3,000 American high school students. I think it exposes a threat to both our education system and our national security.

“Below is a screenshot of a Facebook page from October 2016. . . . You can watch the video from the post here: (Note, there is no audio.)” The grainy video showed election workers surreptitiously stuffing ballots into bins. The video said this happened during a Democratic primary election in 2016. Across the screen it said: “Have you ever noticed that the ONLY people caught committing voter fraud are Democrats?”

Students were asked: “Does the Facebook post provide strong evidence of voter fraud during the 2016 Democratic primary election?” They could check the video for evidence and search the Internet for relevant background.

The correct answer was no. The clips actually showed a polling place in Russia, which the students could have verified online. Yet 52 percent of that large and representative sample of American youths — children of the Internet Age — said yes. A quarter of them rejected the video but could not say why. About 9 percent gave a relevant explanation for their doubts, such as lack of context. Only 3 out of 3,119 respondents found the BBC news story that exposed the Russian fraud.