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Fake news worldwide - statistics & facts

In an age where the internet is frequently the main source of information, news audiences are at higher risk than ever of encountering and sharing fake news. Every day, consumers all over the world read, watch, or listen to the news for updates on everything from their favorite celebrity to their preferred political candidate, and often take for granted that what they find is truthful and reliable. For many audiences, navigating the news media landscape is harder than ever before and has even led to consumers around the globe actively avoiding the news altogether.

Dissemination and consumption

Identifying fake news is made more difficult by the fact that it is rapidly becoming an industry of its own, with individuals paid to write sensationalist stories and create clickbait content to increase site traffic. Disinformation, fiction masquerading as fact, and deliberate lies can be made to look legitimate and can easily reach thousands of users in a matter of minutes.

When it comes to the spread of fake news, social media is the main culprit. Although social media has been the least trusted news source globally since 2016, a study revealed that that over 50 percent of responding internet users in 24 different countries use social networks as a way to keep up to date. At the same time, social media is also (sometimes unwisely) used for verifying the accuracy of online news. Although not the most effective way to check the legitimacy of a news article, some consumers admit that they look at how many other people have shared or liked a story on social media to determine whether or not the content is reliable.

Fake news and COVID-19

Younger consumers are often at greater risk of exposure to fake news than older generations by sheer virtue of their higher social media usage. This issue was highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic, and a clear example of the extent of the problem can be seen in data on news consumption in Europe during the outbreak.

A survey held in spring 2020 showed that 60 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK had recently used social media for information about the coronavirus, and 59 percent had come across fake news on the subject. Meanwhile, in France, almost 30 percent of 15 to 18-year-olds were using social media as their primary source of coronavirus information, placing news consumers in this age bracket at greater risk of being exposed to misinformation. A separate global survey revealed that although most Gen Z and Millennial news consumers ignored or reported fake news about COVID-19, some chose to share the content they encountered. Either knowingly or unknowingly, many consumers see fake news and pass it on to someone else, putting even the savviest news audiences at risk.

Unfortunately, fake news has no ‘quick fix’ and developing an awareness of it and improving one’s ability to identify false information is a must for regular news consumers. By reporting suspicious content, only using reputable news sources, and making an effort to fact-check information, every individual can in a small way work towards achieving a safer news environment.

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